Friday, April 18, 2014

European elections

Voting for the European 'Parliament' will occur in early May.  This blog-post is particularly aimed at British readers but for other voting Europeans, my advice would be to punish, punish, punish, the anti-democratic forces currently running/ruining Europe.  Truth is, there isn't much choice out there as not many parties advocate pulling down the whole edifice.  Most just advocate 'reform'.

In the United Kingdom though, there is a real choice.  UKIP is a party that has the opportunity to send the largest number of MEPs to the European Parliament after this election.

UKIP don't argue for 'reform'.  Reform is like giving a terminal cancer patient a 'make-over'.  The lipstick, make-up, new clothes and hair will lift the spirits for a short while but the fundamental outcome isn't altered.

UKIP proposes withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

That said, this cannot be effected from the European Parliament.  So why bother voting for UKIP or for sceptical anti-EU Conservatives?

A strong turnout and a strong UKIP vote will raise the profile of Europe as a UK Parliamentary Election issue.  I sense that the main UK parties - Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats (and the European elite) want Europe to be a small side-issue in the next General Election.  They want to focus on the economy and spending.

Don't get me wrong, I fully understand the critical importance of the economy for most people.  Britain's economy is on a knife-edge or the edge of a precipice - use whatever analogy you like, we remain in a dangerous position. Public spending is still way too high, as is the country's indebtedness. 

It's just that I think that the  'Europe Union ', with its layers upon layers of regulations and directives is a significant contributor to the UK's economic malaise.  I know it isn't the EU that cossets a bloated and inefficient National Health Service - that ones down to successive weak governments pandering to people in thrall to the service providers.  The EU does though, even in the NHS, interfere and impose barriers and obligations and regulations which add to the overall cost of that organization.

And I therefore think that the Europe question needs to be close to the heart of the 2015 General Election.  I think it is that important.  The Europe question absolutely needs to be put to the people of Britain and, if you want to have the discussion on economic terrain, then okay. Let's do that and, in doing so, tie together the key issues facing Britain. 

That then is why it is important to get UKIP MEPs and anti-EU Conservatives elected in significant numbers in the upcoming European elections.  This will cause all of the 'main' parties to come clean on the Europe issue. 

The Conservatives have a commitment to put UK membership of the EU to a referendum.  Though the leadership still have a 'we can reform the EU' approach which is doomed to failure.  You don't reform junkies by giving them slightly less drugs!

Labour's position?  Who knows?  Certainly not Ed Miliband the puppet leader.  Perhaps the Labour paymaster, public service union leader,  Ed McCluskey can't decide and so that is why Labour's position is um, err, um, I'll get back to you on that!

Liberal Democrats?  Ardently pro-European.  This remember is the only stage where they can play with other 'nanny-staters' and feel more important and listened-to, than they are at home.  They did though previously promise a referendum and then broke that promise but that's not the first one that they have reneged on.

So, my advice is vote UKIP in the European Elections or Conservative, where you have a Euro-sceptic one, and then vote Conservative in the General Election., with the hope that the Conservative leadership read the message from the electorate and move in a sceptical direction.

Just don't vote Labour or Liberal Democrat but do vote!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Farage vs Clegg - EU Debate

The title is a little mis-leading as it should more properly say Farage vs the Elite.

On Wednesday evening, Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) participated in a debate with Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrat party.  They debated issues around the UK's membership of the European Union (EU).  Farage wants the UK to exit and Clegg wants the UK to remain a member albeit he 'understands' the need for reform.

The politicians that were present or commenting on TV, provided differing views of the outcome of the debate.

The Conservatives (coalition partners with the Lib Dems but the only one of the three major parties to offer the prospect of a referendum) scored the debate as a 'score draw' - both sides landed some good punches but  overall a draw.

The Lib Dems, unsurprisingly, saw a 'hands down' win for Clegg.

Labour decided to pursue their soundbite campaign about the 'cost of living crisis'.  That they couldn't offer much in the way of an opinion is not entirely surprising since the recent ramblings of their leader, Ed Miliband, on the subject, would keep a gaggle of Vienna psycho-analysts occupied for years trying to decipher the meaning.  The Miliband babbling in answer to 'Will Labour hold a referendum' amount to ' Umm, err, Umm, maybe, only if, yes, no' etc.

UKIP, again unsurprisingly, saw it as a victory for their man and also for their party.  Seeing their man at the 'top table' with the grown-ups.

Although I was in a time-zone four hours in advance of the UK, I watched the debate.  I scored this as a victory for Farage.  I wouldn't disagree with the YouGov poll which scored Farage at 57% and Clegg at around 39%.

Clegg accused UKIP of pursuing 'scare tactics' (for shame, Nigel!) over an election pamphlet that suggested that 29 million Bulgarians and Romanians were about to take-up their rights and flock to Britain.  Since the combined total populations of these countries is less than 29 million,  score one point to Nick.  Farage's response was to highlight the fact (which wasn't then contested) that 485 million people in the EU do have the unfettered legal right to come to and settle in, the UK.   The subtext was (unspoken of course, because UK politicians have not yet come around to being open about immigration) that the UK welfare system and free healthcare offered economic migrants a strong incentive to take-up the opportunity offered by the 'open border' currently presented.

Having accused Farage of 'scare tactics', Clegg then introduced some of his own.

Some 3 million UK jobs were on the line if the UK exited the EU.  Major companies would shut down their UK operations if we left.  The rationale appeared to be that our European trading partners wouldn't buy UK manufactures once we left.

Let's deconstruct that for a moment.

This seems to suggest that European consumers and businesses purchase UK goods and services as some kind of sympathetic action - they are 'helping out' the UK by buying things from us, that they don't really need and at prices that they wouldn't normally pay.  Really?  Call me Euro-sceptic but I think that the goods and services we provide to our European  trading partners are wanted by them because they meet our partners need's in terms of quality, delivery and price.  And that is exactly how it should be!

I guess that the further inference is that, in a fit of pique, our trading partners, who are mostly non-governmental organizations, would collectively decide to boycott UK goods and services, to teach the UK a lesson.  Really?

These would be the same organizations that collectively export something like 50% more to the UK than the UK exports to the rest of the EU.  So they would jeopardize their very large export market to aid the Euro-project?  Really?

Oh, and those big business, like Siemens and Hitachi and Nissan - they manufacture in the UK mostly because, within the EU, the UK probably has the least restrictive labour laws.  Why would you set-up a business in France, for example.  In that country, a company doesn't so much employ a worker, as adopts them!  Again, call me Europ-sceptic but I believe that these multi-national companies set-up manufacturing plants and business where it suits them to do so.

Again, Clegg was in scare-monger territory around the need to negotiate so many new trade treaties.  And that the UK would be doing so, form a position of weakness.  While I do recognize that Britain no longer has an empire (honestly, I do!) I also know that we have become a very significant trading nation.  We are ranked as the 6th largest economy in the world and so I reckon we might know a thing or two about how to sign treaties.  We are also a member of the World Trade Organization and the Commonwealth, so don't think that we would start from a ground zero position!

Overall, I think that the risk to the UK economy from exiting the EU is way overblown.  Disruption, maybe a little, but that would come from any re-alignment, indeed, that has happened every time the EU has admitted a new member!

Farage strayed into confused territory when he talked about Human Rights legislation, since this is mostly governed by the European Court of Human Rights, a non-EU body.  Clegg responded with praise for the Euro Arrest warrant and the resulting capture and extradition of a 7/7 bomber.  The inference was that without the EU, Italy would not have arrested and extradited the then suspect.  Really?  Farage's response was to bring in the farce surrounding Britain's 12 year long efforts to rid ourselves of this dangerous man.  Again though, ECHR rather than EU.

Farage struck a very resonant chord when talking about Britain being governed by the British rather than unelected bureaucrats in Brussels.  Even managing to pull in a reference to Magna Carta to illustrate that the British are not exactly novices in the field of representative government (We, the people, to some folks!).

In conclusion,
Clegg didn't persuade me that the UK's continued membership of the EU was, on balance, of benefit to the UK.  Farge's charge that the UK was contributing £55 million, to the EU, every single day resonates, especially when 'austerity' (otherwise known as living within your means) cuts are occurring in the UK!

Some might benevolently view Clegg's performance as 'courageous' in that he stood up and was counted.  Call me jaundiced but I saw his performance as something like his job interview for a senior, unelected but very well paying, tax-free role, in the EU elite, when he leaves the UK political stage.    

All said and done, to those UK voters, I suggest you vote UKIP in the May 2014 Euro elections and vote Conservative in the May 2015 General Election.  The former will send shivers down the weak spine of the establishment politicians and may promote a more muscular demeanor on EU issues and the latter is the only realistic way that UK electors can have a hope of a referendum on a possible UK exit from the EU.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Obama's friends

If you are not a Ukranian, consider yourself very lucky, as you wake up, this morning. 

Ukranians have President Obama as a friend and ally.  They know how lucky that is, because you can always count on a friend, right?


When that friend is President Obama.

Germany counted the USA and most particularly President Obama, as a friend.  Remember that big Obama love-fest before he was elected as President?  The one where he had the rock-star stage?  That was in Germany. 

So how does Obama repay this adulation?  Well his security services, in the relentless pursuit of America's terrorist enemies, bug the phone of German Chancellor Merkel.  Now Merkel, having grown-up in the old East Germany, probably knows a thing or two about being bugged, so she is unlikely to have said too much that was incriminating, on any of the calls that Obama's spies listened-in to.  Or maybe she did.  Maybe she thought, friends don't spy on friends.  Hmm!

So to Ukraine.  President Obama and his ineffectual Secretary of State, John Kerry, are threatening all sorts of sanctions against Russia.  Now call me naive but what was the result of ever increasing sanctions against Iran?  Oh yes!  Iran is currently enjoying a sanctions vacation, courtesy of the Obama administration and still able to pursue its goal of obtaining a nuclear capability.  Iran's number one enemy after the USA?  Israel, another friend of the USA that is being treated to Obama's own, very special, interpretation of friendship.

President Hosni Mubarak also thought of America and Obama as a friend and then his friend 'threw him under a Muslim Brotherhood bus!

Take it closer to home.  Christopher Stevens was appointed US Ambassador to Libya by President Obama and the then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.  It would be wrong to question the naivete of a person that cannot defend themselves, but surely Stevens could have done some homework on Clinton.  She was thrown off of the Watergate inquiry because of her having a very loose affiliation with the truth - that should have made him wary.  However, in Stevens' defence he probably thought that he could rely on his friends in Washington and the White House.  That didn't work out so well though! 

The US consulate in Benghazi was attacked by well-armed militants and Stevens and three other  US personnel were brutally killed.  Even in death though, Obama and Clinton's special notion  of what friendship means, had to be played out.  So the airwaves rang-out with stories of a spontaneous mob that were protesting about a video.  This mob were so spontaneous, they came very well armed, including carrying Rocket Propelled Grenades because that's kind of spontaneous, right?  Then Obama and Clinton go through the public expressions of sympathy that is called for, when 'friends' are taken from us.  Except, we have since learned, this was for show.  As said this was no spontaneous demonstration.  This was a well-planned attack and it was sustained but in a stunning display of friendship, Obama ordered the military to stand down and not to go to the aid of the beleaguered consulate.  Indeed, if the twittersphere is to be believed, the US General in charge, in that theatre of operations, was relieved of his command when he indicated an intention to send military personnel to rescue Americans that were in danger. 

I don't know about you but Obama's idea of friendship doesn't match anything that I recognise.

So back to the poor Ukranians.  If you believe in karma and that sort of stuff, then Ukraine must have been really bad in a former life.  In addition to having the highly dubious honour of the friendship of Obama they also have the European Union as an ally.  Now if you want to know how the European Union treats its friends, consider how it treated Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Italy during the recent economic crisis.  Ask the people of Cyprus, that saw their life savings stolen at the whim of the EU, if they think this was the act of a friend. 

Say what you like about the United Kingdom but when Ireland needed help, the UK provided it - because that's how friends treat friends!  Of course there was likely some self-interest involved but still!

If I was a political leader in any of the current hot-spots, I would be seriously reconsidering my country's friendship with the USA.  If I was the president if the Philippines, would I really believe that my American 'friends' would come to my aid, if the Chinese continued their South China Sea expansionist activity?

In closing, I need to bring some balance to this piece.  Plainly the foregoing is somewhat slanted against Obama and just shows how he mis-treats his friends.  In truth though it isn't always that way.  The successful investor, Warren Buffet is a big supporter of Obama.  This is one friend that Obama does consider or so it would seem.  The Keystone Pipeline Phase 4 has been awaiting US government approval for all of Obama's presidency but this can has been repeatedly kicked down the road and no decision made.  One  has to wonder if the fact that Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway group owns the rail company called Burlington Northern, has anything to do with it.  Is it a coincidence that BN rail cars are currently transporting the oil that would otherwise flow through the pipeline?  If I was on 'Who wants to be a millionaire' I would have to 'ask a friend' but I would make sure that it wasn't America's president!

Yes, if I was a Ukranian, I would be seriously considering what friendship means!



Friday, February 28, 2014

Conservatives - The way forward - Part Two

The previous post on this issue dealt mostly with economic matters.  Today I want to expand on ways that the UK Conservative party can return to its roots and present a conservative alternative to the leftist policies put forward by the Labour Welfare party and the Liberal Democrats.

Some that read the previous post will no doubt have thought that the spending side changes were lacking in detail but please read on and maybe this will help to fill in the gaps and demonstrate how the Conservatives can take a step, a yard or two 'rightwards' and bring Britain beading into the right direction.

Let's start here.  I believe that the true conservative way is not about trying to 'understand crime and the causes of crime'.  We can leave that to those on the left who see that all of society's problems can be put down to being the responsibility of 'society' rather than being the responsibility of the individual.  In fact that really is the core of the difference between Conservatives and leftists.  Conservatives believe in the rights and responsibilities of the individual, whereas the left always seeks to subsume the individual into the collectivist state, where no one has responsibility (but just to prove it, they will commission a publicly funded enquiry or review with a pre-conceived outcome, saying that provision by the 'state' is best!). 

For Conservatives, crime should be about law enforcement.  Not about creating more and more laws but about enforcing the ones we have and enforcement, as the word suggests, should mean the strength and power of society coming to bear on those that infringe the laws that society, collectively pass.

For criminals, prison should be a deterrent.  That means the conditions need to be harsh, harder than those that prevail on the outside.  So no access to television or computers or the internet.  No access to drugs.  Regular but random searches  of the prisoner and cell.  Long periods where they are simply locked-up.  

Leftists regularly talk out of both sides of their mouth.  Prison should be about rehabilitation.  The rate of recidivism is high because of society, etc. 

I would posit that as a means of rehabilitation, prison mostly doesn't work.  There will be some that are so traumatised by the event that they never commit another crime but many are career criminals and they 'need' to commit crimes to fund the lifestyle that they (and certain sympathisers) believe that they are entitled to live.

In relation to criminals, Conservatives should put forward policies that put criminals behind bars and, leave them there and make their stay in prison a 'hard' experience.   I don't believe that society can rid itself of criminals in the true sense, all we can (and should) do is to get them off of our streets..

While we are at it, why do prisons need to be so conveniently located?  As part of the necessary prison reforms, build new prisons in more remote and inhospitable places rather than in city centres!  The message needs to be clear.  We don't care for prisoner welfare - prison is to be about punishment - we only care for the victims of crime. Period, as Americans say.

Speaking of Americans, how about a three strikes and you're out rule.  Something like, anyone that is convicted for the third time, for an offence that carries a sentence of greater than 5 years, then that individual, on the sentence for the third offence, has 10 years added to the sentence.  If after release, there is a fourth offence, then  the next conviction would automatically carry a life sentence.

Which neatly brings me to sentencing and particularly life sentences.  Put simply, the current parole system kicks in way too early.   We have had the spectacle of convicted Members of Parliament being released just a few weeks into a six month sentence.  They though, are not alone.  Criminals seem to be eligible for parole once they have completed one third of their sentence and, because of so called 'overcrowding' the impetus is to err on the side of releasing them.  The 'overcrowding' is a myth.  See above!  Prison isn't about being a holiday camp.  Multiple cell occupancy is a must - I wouldn't have any problem in recommending dormitory style accommodation rather than the 'own room' hotel-like comforts that some now enjoy.

A life sentence should be seen as a serious deterrent.  So 'life' should mean a minimum of 20 years served (I wouldn't argue too strongly if someone said it should be 25 years).  Remember, the Conservative way is that criminals should be put away!  We believe that we cannot cure or rehabilitate some people, so the only solution is to take those people out of circulation for a long time.

It will come as no surprise that a Conservative does not allow prisoners the right to vote, while they are prisoners.

Social Matters
I am not in favour of abortion.  I simply think it is wrong.  I think that Britain has allowed itself to be a place where abortions are so readily available  and publicly funded on the most false of pretences.  The 1967 abortion Act (as amended down the years) keeps on talking about the abortion being needed to 'prevent a grave threat to the mother'.

A 'grave' threat.   I seriously doubt that most of the cases where an abortion is carried out, truly represent a 'grave' threat to the mental or physical condition of the mother.  I do accept that for some an unexpected pregnancy could be 'inconvenient'.  It might impinge on the career prospects of the mother or the lifestyle but surely these cannot be said to be 'grave' reasons?

Needless to say, the rights of the unborn child are never considered.  Around 200,000 babies are aborted each year, in Britain and the media and others are more concerned about some TB-carrying badgers being culled.  Warped priorities doesn't really come close.

So, the rules on abortions need to be more strictly enforced.  The nature of the 'grave' risk needs to be clearly found and 'inconvenience' not be a reason for foetal murder.

Abortion on the NHS to no longer be state-funded.  If someone wants an abortion, then that person should pay for it.  Much as one might say, in relation to crime, 'if you can't do the time, don't do the crime' so in respect of abortion, one has to consider that the plethora of contraceptive options that are available should preclude the requirement for just about any abortions.

Same-Sex Marriage - regular readers will be aware of my views on this.  Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.  Any legislation that says to the contrary, to be repealed.

Education reform is now underway, with the 'free schools' programme.  This needs to be enhanced.  We need to get government, in any form,  out of the class-room.  Taxpayer funding of education, through a voucher system should be the extent of governmental involvement.

Foreign relations

Let's start with the European Union.  Throughout the time of its membership, Britain has been seen as a difficult member  of the EU.  Conservatives look at the free trade aspects and think that this is good but then we worry about the subsidies that are paid to various industries.   Worry turns to grave (proper use of the word) concern  for just about everything else that the EU does. 

I have just been reading 'How we invented freedom' by Daniel Hannan - highly recommended!

In this book Hannan captures the historical 'separatedness' of  Britain.  We are not part of Europe.  Geographically, we are on the fringe but politically, Britain has, for more than a thousand years, had a different approach to political matters and how society manages its affairs.  Our history is one where government is answerable to the people.  Where no person or organisation, is above the law.  Where the rights of the individual are understood and protected.  These are not concepts that are universally held within the EU.  Where something more than lip-service, to these practices, is followed, this is a new concept and its very immaturity poses a risk. 

Therefore, Conservatives need to dis-engage from the European Union, as the number one foreign priority.  Ignore all of the threats about lost trade opportunities etc..  These are empty.  People in other nations buy products or services from Britain because what is offered is of the required quality and at the right price.  If that quality or price were to change, after Britain exits the EU, I would suspect it to only be for the better.

While we are on dis-engagement, the UK should leave the United Nations.  This organisation has outlived its usefulness.  As evidence - the massacre at Srebrenica happened while the people were ostensibly under UN protection, the UN appointed Gadaffi's Libya to the UN Human Rights body! Time to leave and forgo the lectures from the various fools that populate that body.

On September 18, 214, the people of Scotland will vote in a referendum on 'independence'.  'Independence' is written so because it's kind of a strange independence that moves from a union of equals - where Scottish votes have the same weight as English, Welsh or Northern Irish  votes do -   to a place where most policies are set by a foreign wanne-be supra power - the EU

Anyway, if Scotland stays within the Union, all well and good.  However, there should not then be any kind of further devolution of powers to Scotland as some kind of thank you or sop to the Nationalists. 

If the Scots choose to secede from the Union, then we will be sad to see them go but would wish them well.  However, they take with them a proportionate share of liabilities of UK Inc. and we should not offer them any kind of currency union.

The Conservatives must end the TV tax - aka TV licence.  Nothing more to be said!

Much as Conservatives are against subsidies, it is clear, that since the long term energy needs of Britain, will require a very large element of nuclear power in the mix, then state subsidy is required to support the economics.

In terms of Shale gas, we need to be realistic.  This does offer an opportunity for exploitation of our natural resources but we need to recognise that this is not a 'silver bullet'.  Recovering this resource will not be easy but it will be a little easier to get the large number of land drilling rigs mobilised and natural gas companies involved, if government views the opportunity as one of national strategic importance and lets companies drill.  As in, bring the full force of the law down on 'nimbys' and eco-activists and push through exploration and then, hopefully development, plans.

In the interim, Conservatives should support the British national interest and cease the closure of coal and gas fired power stations.  This will avert the next big crisis that is looming.

Two things.
Firstly, make all charitable giving tax deductible to the extent of 120%.  So if I donate £100 to a registered charity, I can deduct £120 from my pre-tax income.
Next, ban charities from public advocacy and lobbying.  Require that for them to retain the status of a 'registered charity' a minimum of 75% of all funds raised must be spent directly on the stated beneficiaries of the charity.  So overheads - cost of raising funds and employing charity workers - cannot exceed 25% of funds raised.  I don't like interfering but, one step further, no employee of a charity to be paid more than 3 times the national average wage - currently around £75,000.

Red Tape
Conservatives should be in the business of small government.  Small government isn't concerned with whether I work 40, 48 or 60 hours a week - Small government says that this is an issue for my employer and I.  Small government isn't concerned with whether I sell bananas (straight or slightly curved) in lbs or kgs - that is between my customers and I.

So along with a bonfire of quangos, a bonfire of regulations.  All regulations at the national and local level would be reviewed within a two year timeline.  The review would look at each regulation and consider the full costs of the regulation and the expected financial benefits of same.     Any national regulation, where the financial benefits do not exceed the costs by 25%, scrap the regulation.  Any where the benefits exceed by greater than 25%, have them reviewed and approved by Parliament.  For local regulations the benefit requirement for retention raised to being greater than 50% of costs.

Any regulation retained, to be reviewed every 3 years to see if it still meets the same cost/benefit thresholds.

All new regulations to have the test first applied, but the benefit threshold to be 30% and 60% respectively.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Conservatives - The way forward

In recent posts, I have bemoaned the current policies followed by the current Conservative leadership.   Saying frankly, that these policies are not conservative at all.  It's easy to snipe from the sidelines and just be critical without offering an alternative so, I won't do that.  Here is my brand of conservatism.

Unsurprisingly, I am for low taxes.  I was tempted to say no taxes but that probably isn't realistic.  Also since I believe that taxes are too high and that taxes start too early, I am in favour of radically altering the tax free allowance.  The Conservatives should commit to raising the point at which a person pays tax, to £20,000, within the course of the next parliament.   At a stroke, if I can use that phrase, this would take many low paid people out of the tax net completely.  This would also sweeten the pot for those moving from welfare dependency into paid employment (see below). 

National Insurance Contributions (NIC) are a tax by another name.  It is time to end the farce of the separation and just roll this into Income Tax.  Since this would then be part of general taxation, the low paid (see above) would again benefit.

Tax thresholds are too low.  The rate at which the higher band comes in, £31,865 is simply to early  This catches far too many people in the higher rate bracket.  Raise this immediately, to £35,000, which would mean £1,200 in the pockets of the 'squeezed middle' each year and then to £40,000 over the life of the next parliament, letting people keep another £2,000 of their money (based on the current 40% rate).

Having said that, I want to reduce the benefit of this tax cut (maybe I could be an MP, with such bare-faced cheek!).  I want to reduce the value by reducing the higher rate from 40% to 35%, immediately.  Then to 30% over the course of the next parliament.

Oh, and these reduced rates would include the effect of adding in NIC to Income Tax!  So the top rate of tax, inclusive of NIC, would soon be 30%

Higher rate tax - abolish it completely.  It is just for political posturing.

Inheritance Tax - abolish it completely - why should something that has already been taxed, be taxed again?

Capital Gains Tax - a flat rate 15% on gains and no tax free allowances. 

Corporation tax - drop this to 15% over the course of the next parliament.  However, change the rules on allowances for Inter-company payments, which serve to dramatically reduce a company's taxable income and sends money to overseas tax havens.  Limit such deductions to 10% of turnover.  We might lose a Starbucks or similar companies but I think that a company like Amazon or Apple will still want to remain with UK operations!

Fuel Taxes - Tell the 'greenies' to walk-off somewhere.  If I can use a four letter word!  Same to those urban dwellers that have good good established mass transport infrastructures.  Then cut duties by 10% immediately rising to 20% over the life of the next parliament.

Please read the above again.  Why would the average voter not be attracted by such a policy platform?  The overwhelming beneficiaries are the lower paid and the so called 'squeezed middle'  - they would get to keep more of their money.

You are probably not yet convinced because you are thinking , 'yes that's all well and good but how do we pay for it?'

We look to Hollywood for our inspiration.  Hollywood, or Elstree, if you want to be small-minded and nationalistic, are not usually happy places for conservatives.  These are hot-beds of liberal luvvies who, having made a pile of money by acting, then feel obligated to foist there warped viewpoints of a subsidized world where 'make-believe' is real, upon us all.  But I digress!

Hollywood is familiar with adaptations, so we, Conservatives, take a leaf from their book.

'Honey I shrunk the government!'   Okay, so it isn't very catchy and does need some work but let's keep this as a working title for now.

Civil Service Pay
Studies regularly show that this is around 8% higher than for those in the private sector.  This is 'justified' on the grounds that people in the civil service are more highly 'qualified' than those in the private sector.  Okay, so leave aside, for the moment, any thoughts about, if they are so much smarter, how come we are in this mess?'  That won't be productive.

Instead, an across the board cut of 8% for all.  Further, for those earning more than three times the national average wage of £25,000, a cut of 15%, across the board.  These cuts to apply at both the national and local levels of government.  No doubt this will cause some of these high-flying and (earning) civil servants to seek positions elsewhere but that can only be to the betterment of the real economy as those super-brains get re-deployed into the productive business arena - so win-win!

Limit sick-day absences to the private sector average.  Currently, public sector 'sickies' are more than 60% higher than in the private sector.  So, taking civil servants out of the public sector and into the private sector could also see reductions in NHS needs as these ex-civil servants move to the healthier private sector environment - win-win again!  

Departmental Cuts
Only one sacred cow - Defence.  The current level maintained but we rein back on overseas entanglements. 

All other departments, cut by 5% a year, for each year of the next parliament.  That is 5% from their 2013 budget out-turn.  Government must become smaller.

Over and above these reductions, abolish the Department for Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Culture, Music and Sports.  Similarly, do away with the Welsh Office and the Scottish Office.  Also abolish the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister!

International Aid
Reduce the budget by 50%, immediately.  Require that the remainder is only spent on British produced goods.

Then onto local government.  What do people really want from their local councils?  I would suggest refuse collections (weekly, if you please) and roads that don't have potholes every 100 yards!  Social services - not really - it's not as if they do a good job at it anyway!  Libraries?  How many people actually visit them nowadays?  We live in an digital age, when people want a book, they get it on a Kindle.  When they need reference information, they data-mine the internet.  Schools?  Let schools continue down the road to Free School status and get the bureaucratic meddlers out of the way.  LGBT drop-in centres?  Do I need to say anything?  Tourism promotion?  Business services?  No, no, no!

So then, dramatic reductions in local council expenditure and personnel levels.    

I would propose a simple solution.  Set 2013 Budgets as the base-line.  Then say that if they can have a workforce that is 70% front line and 30% back-room administration staff, then their budgets are maintained.  For each 5% deviation from this ratio, they lose or gain 5% of their budget.  For the avoidance of doubt, front-line means the total time spent by police service employees outside of the station relative to the total time available (time spent outside divided by headcount times working hours)  People want to see a visible  police service not something that they just pay for!

Immediately scrap the HS2 programme.  Other than some self-interested civil servants, no one seems to want this and the already high costs are only going one way.  So abandon it.  If there really is a demand to shave 15 minutes off of a train journey then some private enterprise will see the opportunity and then invest their money into it.

Unsurprisingly, I see this as a significant contributor to spending reductions.  We need to get welfare back to being a safety net and not a lifestyle choice! 

The welfare cap to be reduced to £15,000, with immediate effect.  It cannot ever be right that it pays more to be on welfare than it does to be in work.  Within this welfare cap, housing benefit to not exceed £5,000.  It is not the business of government to subsidize private landlords!   

Statutory sick pay to be abolished. 

We are probably not there yet, in terms of balancing the budget and matching cuts in taxation with reductions in spending, so..........

I have said here before, what is needed is a real bonfire of the quangos.  Start from the basis that all are abolished.  Every single one, 'at a stroke'.  Then only absorb those activities back into the appropriate departments, if they are absolutely necessary.  Oh, and by the way, the funding reduced by the abolition of these quangos does not count towards the departmental cuts mentioned earlier.

Balanced Budget and Debt
The budget must be balanced.  So income as a minimum, matches (or exceeds if possible,) expenditure.  This to be a statutory obligation - written into law!  However, before the budget is balanced, we need to tackle the national debt. 

So, we treat this like a mortgage.  We say that the current debt is to be paid-off over 25 years!  So, when the budget is being calculated we include, on the expenditure side, something around £50 billion to cover debt reduction.  Can't be done?  Then the departmental cuts need to be deeper.  We cannot burden future generations with the level of national debt, that the UK now carries - £1.3 TRILLION and rising.  Over the years, use the debt-interest reduction windfall to pay more off of the debt.

Conservatives cannot just be about deficit reduction, we must be about debt reduction as well.  That is how we serve all the people of the whole UK.



Friday, February 21, 2014

Conservative campaigning

Like some others reading this, I received an e-mail yesterday, from the Conservative Party.  They wanted me to take part in a quick survey seeking my views about what was important to me and my family and what was important to the country on a range of subjects.

I responded in what I think is a conservative way and am not shy to share them with others.

The issues facing me and my family - the level of taxes, government deficit and debt and opportunities for the next generation.  I could only choose three!

Those issues (don't you just hate that word - issues?  Sounds so Tony Benn and 1960/70s socialism ) that are most important to the country tax levels, deficit and debt and the EU.

Who would I prefer as Prime Minister?  The choice is Ed Miliband or David Cameron - so no real choice, then. 

Then, I submitted the survey and received a thank you and an appeal for a donation.

The latter made me think of why I don't donate to the Conservative Party and then to wonder why I was asked these questions.

Firstly, the poll results are rarely published - and I think that there is a reason for that.  I believe that those people that bother to respond - the 'saddos' like myself - will do so along the lines I have answered.  That is, following and supporting 'traditional' Conservative values. 

One of the choices offered was 'the environment and  climate change.'  Do I care about these?  Of course I do but do I put these above the needs of my family or my country?  No!  Do I agree that the British people should be impoverished  on some less than half-baked policy that says Canute-like,  that Britain can single-handedly reduce so called green-house gas emissions in any meaningful way?  No!  Especially when we seek to do so while importing ever higher levels of mass produced Chinese goods that are made in an increasingly carbon-energy based environment!   

PS Note how it is now called 'climate change' and no longer 'man-made global warming'!  Initially I thought that this was a good sign - that science was returning to a fact-based approach to climate and, recognizing that there has been no appreciable actual warming, in recent years and that they had been hood-winked by a bunch of watermelons (green on the outside, red on the inside - read James Delingpole's book of the same name - highly entertaining and informative!) but no, the charlatans that eschew scientific practice and doctor test results and data to fit a pre-conceived premise still hold sway.  'They' have just realized that even 'they' can't get away with fooling all of the people, all of the time.  So don't change the fundamental lie, just change some of the words!

Anyway, green rage rant over.

So, I suspect that the actual purpose of the survey was to rekindle my conservative views and then seek to get me to make a donation to the Conservative Party, on the basis that this party supports the views that I have just endorsed.

That might work, if, for one minute, I actually believed that the Conservative Party did support  and share my views on low taxes or deficit and debt reduction.  But they don't.  As evidence, I offer the last 4 years.  Neither taxes nor the deficit are appreciably reduced from the levels left by the outgoing Labour party, in 2010.  Directionally, Britain is still left-leaning.

The leftist approach to politics is to push the socialist agenda, ever leftwards.  They do this by taking a great stride in that direction.  If there is concerted opposition to the extent of the leftward thrust, then they move back a little but the net position is that the policy/country has moved to the left - they step a yard to the left and retreat six inches, if you like. 

The UK Conservatives, since before the downfall of Margaret Thatcher, have been afraid to do likewise in a right-ward direction.  Since they are effectively 'professional' politicians, and the same applies, maybe even more so, to the other parties, there whole raison d'etre is about getting elected and re-elected.  So the question isn't that personal taxes are too high, the argument rages around the top rate, which actually doesn't affect too many people (and of, course doesn't raise that much income!).  The whole premise of the discussion is not about the iniquity of taxes (or theft/confiscation by the state, to give it its right name) and how they should be minimized but rather about a small and inconsequential sub-sub-part of taxation.  One, incidentally on which you might see some Conservatives wavering, on the grounds that someone earning £1M  a year can better afford to suffer higher taxes for the common good!

The Conservatives need to offer a radical platform based on traditional Conservative values.  This would require stepping a yard or two to the right - moving the ground on which the arguments are held, to the right. 

Consider Britain in 1979.  The country was very close to collapse and to the anarchy that would have followed a left-wing victory in the election.  However, Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives were elected and set about re-taking power from the union-bosses that had brought the country to the brink.  These Conservatives didn't do so in some kind of cosy and conciliatory way.  They large-stepped to the right and said this is they way the problem with unions will be addressed.  How effective was this?  Well along with the failed Miner's strike of 1984/5 the whole landscape changed.  Unions in Britain are now largely confined to the remaining state bastions - the civil service, local government and the NHS and barely present in private industry.  It is also interesting to note that having loosened the grip of the leftist unions, there has since been no mandate to undo the reforms that  the first Thatcher government brought in, nor the enhancements that they enacted, subsequently.
So in this field, at least, the leftward direction of the union agenda was halted and then moved to the right and has remained there. 

The same needs to happen in other areas but I don't get the sense that the current crop of Conservatives are the ones to do it.  It is almost that we need to experience some of the economic convulsions that have affected Greece and Italy before we can expect to see a mainstream party offering Conservative solutions.

It is quite depressing that we  might need to see riots on the streets and very high unemployment and real and deep austerity being imposed (from outside!), before we can get a Conservative view put forward - one that says, we are going to take not one but two or more steps to the right and restore the UK.  We will take back sovereignty from the EU, we will scrap green taxes that are asinine and dis-proportionately punish poorer people, we will create a wealth-generating economy that allows the individual to keep a far higher portion of what they earn and so on.   You can read more here and here

Donate to the Conservative Party?  I think not.  To them I am just a 'swivel-eyed loony'.  They will get my vote but only because the alternatives are even more ghastly but they won't get my money!

By the way.  Read the bit about Margaret Thatcher and what the Conservatives did, again.  

These Conservatives didn't do so in some kind of cosy and conciliatory way.  They large-stepped to the right and said this is they way the problem with unions will be addressed.
See how much better it is when an 'issue' is honestly called what it is? 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Scotland's currency

Once again, I return to the subject of what currency Scotland will use, if the Scottish people vote Yes in the upcoming referendum.

It is no good expecting an answer from Scottish Nationalist politicians.  Here is a link to a BBC interview with Nicola Sturgeon, the deputy First Minister of Scotland.  Watch and listen to how many times she is asked if there is a Plan B.

The reason that a Plan B is needed is because all of the leading UK-wide parties have stated their opposition to an independent Scotland entering into a currency union with the rump UK.  Nationalist politicians insist that this is just 'bluster and bullying' from Westminster and so they have no need for a plan to face this potential situation.  However, surely prudence suggests that it would be an idea to have some kind of policy ready just in case it isn't, don't you think?  I realise that the honesty of politicians is usually suspect!  Their keeping of promises is not one of their strongest points.  However, surely the SNP must put something in front of the Scottish people that says 'we do not believe that the rest of the UK will not allow us to enter into a currency union but if that is the case, then this is what we will do......'

Too much to ask?

Of course, this all pre-supposes that an independent Scotland will have the authority to make such a decision, anyway.

The SNP have made a big play of their belief that an independent Scotland will be able to remain or automatically become a member of the European Union.  Let's suppose that this is valid (though the Scottish government refuses to publish the legal advice it has received (presumably received on behalf of the Scottish people?)).  Why would the European Union allow any new member the choice of what currency they can follow?  Does anyone seriously believe that the EU wouldn't simply say, like they do to aspiring members, you must adopt the Euro as your currency?  Why wouldn't they?

I would suggest that no matter what the rump UK says, the EU will demand that Scotland adopt the Euro. The relentless advance of the Euro-project requires this.

I suspect that the EU, while making this an absolute condition, will not set themselves as the 'lender of last resort' for Scotland.  That seems to be what the SNP wants to get from a currency union - the remaining parts of the UK providing a financial guarantee for Scotland's debt.

As the referendum date draws nearer, we can rightly expect to see more and more questions being asked of the Nationalists and answers not being forthcoming, just bluster and bullying.

I am in favour of the Union and opposed to Scotland gaining 'independence' but have become reconciled to the need for a referendum.  However, the post referendum period also needs to be addressed.  If the answer is Yes, then apportion debt and assets between the two countries and separate.  If the answer in No, then no further concessions or granting of additional powers to the devolved government  are to be given.  Also, the independence question needs to be put away for at least 25 years  - enough already!