Thursday, 23 September 2010
Thursday, 15 July 2010
So welcome to my blogroll to Raedwald, Marmalade Sandwich, the IEA blog, Charlotte Gore, Iain Martin and The Melangerie. Do check them out - they are all good blogs.
We need to fund universities properly, yes, so they need more money. We also have to recognise what university is for - to educate people to a higher level, so they can do better in life. We also, in this, have to recognise the huge effect that university educated people have on our economy, especially certain sectors, and society.
I think, though imperfect, the current tuition fees system is the best way of funding universities - students actually understand that education is not 'free', and can rationally plan - "university education will cost £X but will let me earn £XX in the future, so it's worth paying for". A graduate tax removes this - and, I would say, actually makes people work less hard, as success in higher earnings will mean paying more tax in the future - and there is no limit on when you stop paying into the fund, since it is not linked to a particular price; this says to me that graduates are in fact paying for the next students to be educated, not themselves, and this culture is not to be encouraged. It's sort of the opposite of the state pension, and relying on something similar to a Ponzi scheme to fund university education is not sustainable at all.
Which brings me on to my second point - this isn't sustainable since there is always the emigration option - work abroad, earn money there - especially when tax rates are more favourable. I can see this having a particularly bad effect on the financial sector - do we really want to destroy the City, the one area we have a particularly strong comparative advantage in? Not really. Do we really want to lose, more to the point, the high earners, the ones who give a lot of value back to our economy, and provide our economy with so much tax revenue? Could, in fact, this graduate tax make other tax revenue fall, and in fact to a level where there is a net loss? Would this really be good for the country; would it really be 'fair' to make the non-university educated pay more tax because the university educated are working less hard, or have done a runner to Switzerland?
And I've looked at the long term - what about the short term? Universities need more money now, and if introduced, the graduate tax would mean the only revenues they'd get for 3 years would be contributions from alumni.
I think, to really hit the point though, I need to go back to that third paragraph - about pricing education. Education must be seen to have a real, tangible value - and a price. Students should get used to the real world of this, where people must consider that the benefit of something X but the cost Y, and if the benefit greatly exceeds the cost, then the investment is likely to be made. Same with university education. So what if students are left with debt? Welcome to the real world! It's not a bad kind of debt, like buying an Audi and three grand worth of clothes on credit, but an investment debt, rationally considered. It's right that students know how much their education is worth, and since they are the one who primarily benefits from it (higher earnings, etc), they should pay for it.
I realise that the paragraph above isn't perfect - what about those who wish to go into academia, etc? Perhaps universities could offer scholarships of some sort to those suitable, to fund them through undergrad, postgrad and doctorate, so they could produce research for the university - a beneficial investment for the university. We could also look at philanthropists in this, who would support students through university. There's also the issue of defaulting on student debts, and I think the current student loan system of paying back once you earn above £15k is about right there - since only the biggest waster would deliberately earn less as to 'free ride' through education at others' expense.
In any case, the graduate tax is still an ill-thought out and bad idea - and, however unpopular it might sound, raising tuition fees to fill the gap is a much better idea; it doesn't push students into poverty, it's an investment based on rational expectations of the future - and how is it right that the non-university educated have to pay for the university-educated? University education primarily benefits the student, why should they not pay for it?
Saturday, 10 July 2010
But is it really at all reasonable that having been issued a CRB check (an enhanced one too) 3 days ago, that I should now have to send off a new one for something else?
Absolutely crazy. And they wonder why people don't want to do children's/youth work. I'm just hoping the new ISA system is better.
Friday, 9 July 2010
Because however much money they threw at rebuilding schools, Labour's educational policy can be seen as fulfilling the above phrase (maybe not the pre-meditated bit, but the rest definitely). It's methods of education that matter, and in fact things like discipline too. If money is spent on building programmes instead of textbooks, I can't see the benefit. Unless the textbooks are rubbish.
If pupils aren't given the skills to succeed in life and at work, and are instead trained to pass exams (as has happened), they will have less opportunities. If degrees are devalued, as has happened, they will have less opportunities. If time is spent revising and taking exams, there is less time for education, and thus less opportunity. If policy favours trying to push the D grades up to C grades, and not focussing on those below and stretching those above, then opportunity will be limited. The building, 'world-class facilities', blah blah, are irrelevant.
But I also think it's been blown out of proportion for a couple of other reasons. Firstly that Gove apologised was both right but completely in contrast to what Ed Balls would have done - blamed his civil servants; and yes, it was a civil servant's (or quangocrat's) fault, but Gove took responsibility. But the second one is more important - and I think reflects why BSF has been cancelled - is that it was a terribly inefficient way of building schools - John Redwood puts it better than I would - emphasis mine:
In the statement I heard Michael Gove make he was clear in saying he was cancelling the approach of Building Schools for the future because it was an expensive, long winded and inefficient way of building schools. He did not say he was cancelling all new schools building. Indeed, if he is right and he can save substantial sums on the box ticking detailed regulatory approach of the old programme this could leave him with more money to spend on bricks and mortar. This message has got entirely lost in the broadcasts and newspaper stories about cuts, leading most people to think there will now be no new schools.This is exactly the point - and I am confident that new schools will be built under the free schools and academy legislation anyway - and this will be at the demand of parents, with facilities parents demand. Going back to my new school building built in 2004 - the corridors aren't wide enough, and too much 'traffic' meets in the middle of the middle floor, where a staircase and 3 corridors meet. This means that there have to be teachers controlling the flow, some corridors are one-way, etc. The old school had several blocks, separate doors for different blocks - and it worked much better. And they also inexplicably built it for 1200 pupils when the school had 1500 pupils and was still growing - and there's talk of building new classrooms in the attic to rectify this. This failure I can only assume is partly because of the bureaucracy, because of some rules in place perhaps.
It's also true, as Redwood says, that less money on bureaucracy should lead to more being spent on the actual school - and maybe even more schools being built and more quickly too. It might even free up money to be spent on just improving facilities in current schools, buying new football goals maybe - the sort of investment that will produce better effects than just building a new school.
How I would love it for, in a few years, Labour to realise that their rubbish, overbureaucratic programme saw less schools built than under a Conservative government that apparently wants to destroy life chances. They might come up with a new reason for opposing it then. Maybe that the schools don't have enough bike racks and are then affecting educational opportunity. Or maybe they will have become a serious party by then, I don't know.
And so, expanding the size of the welfare state and making it central to people’s lives, despite Thatcher’s best attempts to destroy it, was one of New Labour’s greatest achievements. And by that I mean expenditure on the NHS, on public transport, on public works, on the arts and of course on unemployment benefits.
The welfare state is key to the success of economic redistribution. And in order to maintain popularity for the welfare state it has to fulfil two criteria: it has to be universal; and it has to improve people’s lives to the point they feel they have a stake in it.
The Tories need to shrink the state for ideological reasons because the less people have contact with it, the less they’ll support it.
Ignoring the anti-Thatcher nonsense, I think this hits the nail on the head about the modern difference of Labour vs. Conservative - both support some form of welfare state, but the conservative welfare state is a safety net (as originally intended by Beveridge) while Labour's is more of a hammock, trying to make everyone feel an allegiance to it, even if it is literally taking money out of one pocket, and putting most of it into the other pocket (minus, of course, the stuff dropped on the floor as government waste).
And there was an essay in the Spectator just after the Budget, saying that Osborne wanted to move people off the welfare state to make them more self-reliant, and therefore more likely to vote Conservative.
And this is probably the key difference. It's all quite political, which isn't great, but the conservative way is to move people off the state payroll (be it direct employment or in the form of tax credits, etc) to make them more self-reliant, make them more likely to want things like corporation tax cuts and lower regulation, etc - i.e. vote Conservative. Labour's way is to move people on to that state payroll, encourage state dependency - and in that create 'client states' (see Glasgow) of people who will not vote to remove this, because it seems comfortable, it seems nice and plush, even though they are actually paying (and, since it discourages work, probably paying even more than without tax credits etc) to subsidise themselves. In short, they want people to vote Labour.
And that is a key ideological divide between the Conservatives and Labour. Modern conservatism, especially IDS, seem to see a role of government in helping people to stand on their own two feet, and not be dependent on government - and though my more libertarian strands question whether this approach is best, it is certainly a noble aim - and more noble than the idea of making people dependent on government - it's hardly helping them, and it's hardly providing any freedom.
And that's probably part of the reason that I'm a conservative - getting people off the state payroll, and to coin a phrase that a fellow canvasser said back in April, encouraging social responsibility not state dependency. It's not rabid individualism, it in fact lets people decide if they want to be self-reliant or if they want to help each other out (the social responsibility part of that phrase I just mentioned) - and I think families and communities, families especially, are incredibly important in this. I just don't think that state dependency is at all responsible, at all fair or at all helpful. The state is faceless, impersonal and doesn't generally have a clue.
A return to the Friendly Societies? No, I'm getting too optimistic.
Thursday, 8 July 2010
Abu Hamza and three other British men complained about the length of sentence they may face if convicted in the US.How bloody pathetic? Complaining about the length of sentence? Sorry that the USA still hands out proper sentences, i.e. life means life, as opposed to our 8 years = life in this country.
The four applicants argued that the length of sentences they faced and the conditions of the prison, ADX Florence, breached their human rights.The conditions of the prison might breach your human rights? This is the USA, not bloody Kenya or something. In fact, it's very rich of the ECJ to say this, when some prisons that UK citizens are extradited to within the EU, under the European Arrest Warrant, on dubious charges, are much worse - I'm talking Soviet-era prisons in Latvia for example. According to the Wikipedia page on the ADX Florence prison,
This penal construction and operation theory dictates that inmates remain in solitary confinement for 22–23 hours each day. They do not allow communal dining, exercising, or religious services.So they're complaining about solitary confinement? The BBC page would confirm that, saying that the men call it 'prolonged psychological torture'. What nonsense. What about the terror they've possibly inflicted on people? And if convicted, they'll be convicted of inflicting terror on people - do I really care about their human rights, or this alleged 'psychological torture'?
In the case of Abu Hamza, the court said he had no case against the conditions at the prison because he would spend only a brief spell there because of his disabilities.So Abu Hamza cannot be extradited because he might spend too long in prison in the USA. How pathetic are we. And what's worse, it's the European Court of Justice telling us who we can and can't extradite - isn't our national security a national matter? It's not like the ECJ is going to somehow try to protect us from terrorism anyway. About time we left the ECJ and human rights nonsense behind us - I don't care whether it's the Act itself or the interpretation that's wrong, it's about time that we got a grip and used the great British legal system that has served us so well for centuries.
Sunday, 4 July 2010
Only 18 UK teachers have been struck off for incompetence in the past 40 years, the BBC's Panorama has learned.
Shocking. Altogether shocking, especially when you consider 17,000 teachers might be seen as incompetent.
Though it does bring into question what you define as 'incompetent' - there are about 70 teachers in my school, less than 5% means about 3 of them max, and there's more that I'd consider incompetent than that (in a good school too).
In fact I could probably name 18 that are incompetent.
But then, if we applied those standards, we'd probably have a shortage of teachers.
Sunday, 27 June 2010
Under the draft legislation, to come into force as early as next year, the sale of groceries using the simple measurement of numbers will be replaced by an EU-wide system based on weight.
It would mean an end to packaging descriptions such as eggs by the dozen, four-packs of apples, six bread rolls or boxes of 12 fish fingers.
To the EU: this sort of thing is why the average Briton opposes you. Silly and, to be honest, completely unnecessary rules that make our lives harder.
And the weight is on the back of the packet anyway. It's just pedantic and unnecessary.
Thursday, 24 June 2010
“We must establish the right to a decent period of retirement otherwise we will soon see people working till they drop.”It's not a right, it's an entitlement. Classic trade unionist forgetting an important question: how is this going to be funded? About time some system of personal accounts for pensions was brought in - the state pension resembles one of Madoff's Ponzi schemes.
But Mr Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: "Cameron and Clegg have a damned cheek in asking public sector workers to co-operate in sacking thousands of them. It is an utter outrage."
He said unions were "perfectly capable of speaking up on their behalf" and would be resisting "savage cuts in public services".
No, unions are not 'perfectly capable of speaking up on their behalf'. The 'unions', or rather union leadership, are generally a bunch of far-left loons who do not represent what their members think. To try to say that the workers themselves are incapable of speaking up for themselves and their own opinions is disgusting in all honesty.
Of course, the government could go one step further, and offer financial rewards for good ideas. Now that really would irritate the unions.
Saturday, 12 June 2010
But this statement got to me:
The head of Britain’s largest abortion provider said many young women were living chaotic lives that meant they could not organise contraception.
What utter rubbish. Ever heard of, urm, not having sex if you don't have contraception? Especially when you're below the age of consent anyway? I suppose in this age, everyone has to have what they want, whenever, regardless. Dr Saunders gets it right (emphasis mine):
Dr Peter Saunders, from the Christian Medical Fellowship, which represents Christian doctors, said that the figures were profoundly depressing. “It is increasingly clear that abortion is simply being used as a form of contraception by a growing percentage of girls and women, and that tired policies of values-free sex education, condoms and morning-after pills are not working,” he said.
I'm 18, I know what the pressures are like, and I know we are seriously lacking values in society. It's a real cause for concern - and my concerns about values are some of the things that put conservatism into the mix of my views, alongside classical liberalism (which is more economic).
Values, especially those of the moral kind, are generally a good thing, and about time that we re-adopted some.
Monday, 7 June 2010
I've always noticed the way that the left want to wipe out, kill, etc the right-wingers they disagree with - but the right tend to be more mature about their opponents. I've also said countless times that these comments, even jokes, about Thatcher's death are (a) a step too far and (b) are generally made by those jealous of her success.
The violence with which Lefties hate the Conservatives, personified in their greatest post-war leader, far outweighs the corresponding dislike Tories have Labour, and yet is no more justified by events. So Thatcher abolished your job? Brown destroyed our pensions and our economy, but we don’t anticipate the death of any Labour politician with glee, or fantasise about murdering opponents.
That’s the difference between the centre-Right and the Left. We view our opponents as misguided, foolish or economically illiterate; socialists view their opponents as evil obstacles to progress – no wonder that in just half a century, socialism managed to kill more people than all the world’s religions combined, a record it will hang onto for some time.
According to Sunny Hundal it's a joke, ok, but then he says this:
Oh dear. Well, it was a better joke than Daniel Hannan, darling of the loony right, calling the NHS a 60 year mistake. Oh wait…that wasn’t a joke?So joking about someone's death is OK, but saying that the NHS isn't the greatest health system in the world and being realistic isn't? These socialists are a strange bunch, incredibly foolish sometimes. These jokes about Thatcher's death, and that includes Frankie Boyle's (I think) about the state funeral, are getting rather weary and immature now.
Friday, 4 June 2010
The European Commission has threatened to take the UK to the European Court of Justice over air quality breaches.
The UK could end up paying as much as £300m in fines.
The government received a second and "final" warning from the commission after the levels of dangerous airborne particles, or PM10s, in London and Gibraltar exceeded EU limits.
The commission says high levels of PM10 may lead to serious health problems.
Or why not leave those who are elected to govern London, i.e. Boris, accountable to it? And that way, people in London can decide themselves how important an issue it is. As for the fine, what benefit does it give for even more money to leave the UK and be wasted by the EU?
I suppose the commission thinks it knows best though. "EU limits" and all that.
Thursday, 3 June 2010
Voter: “But I didn’t know! I don’t want the Conservatives to get in so I voted for [Conservative candidate]. I should have voted for someone else!”
Me: “Um, why did you vote for the Conservative?”
(The girl turns scarlet and looks utterly miserable.)
Voter: “I thought it was like TV where you vote them off!”
Reminds me of a few people I know...
Wednesday, 2 June 2010
More than 1,000 schools in England have shown interest in becoming an academy, says the education secretary.
Michael Gove told the House of Commons that 1,114 schools have responded to his letter last week inviting applications for independent status.
Among these are 626 schools rated as "outstanding", who will be fast-tracked to have academy status by this autumn.
The level of interest in becoming an academy is "overwhelming" , says Mr Gove.
Thankfully such incidents are rare, but whatever the result of this, clearly even more control on guns hasn't worked following the last two massacres and I doubt would work again. Trying to stop loners having guns? Seems to be an appropriate thing to do, but not exactly easy either.
Tuesday, 1 June 2010
I present you with three graphs from the Mises Institute. The final one shows he didn't use monetary tightening either.
Austrian economics seems more and more reasonable by the day.
In fact, spending cuts represent money being returned to the economy. Either they result in tax cuts, in which case it's back in the real economy for obvious reasons, or a cut in borrowing, in which case investors are spending less on bonds and funding more capital investment, mortgages, etc.
The left never have been very good with economics.
Friday, 28 May 2010
Tuesday, 25 May 2010
My first thoughts were that they should stay because of free speech and the rest of it, and that I'd like the laws restricting protest around Parliament repealed. But looking into it more, thinking through it, reading around, came up with a few things - but mainly that there's a difference between a protest and creating a squatter settlement on Parliament Square.
Yes, there's a right to protest, including in front of Parliament. But it's a bit difficult to protest when Parliament Square, as I read earlier, is monopolised by the Socialist Worker-types who oppose your protest and probably wouldn't be happy to see someone else protesting there. There's no space to protest. I think we have to differentiate between a protest and a sit-in settlement. Fair enough if the government has rigged an election, but it hasn't. It looks ugly, they are being disrespectful (pissing on statues and stuff), and someone should come along and (try to?) protest against the fox hunting ban or something, to see what they think.
It's not a protest - it's squatting. Protests yes, actually living in front of Parliament, no.
Wednesday, 19 May 2010
We have some good things here - repealing "all of the intrusive and unnecessary laws that inhibit [our] freedom" - his words, not mine. Seeing ID cards out, the DNA database something for criminals and not the innocent, CCTV regulated, ContactPoint gone - it's all very British and, indeed, very liberal. The devolution of power, the localism - "you know better than I do about how to run your life, your community, the services you use" he says, espousing the very socialist calculation problem that we conservatives have always fought against. Checks on the power of lobbyists that sometimes gives interest groups too much power, that ties up the same big business and minority interest groups up with big government - it's all very small-government.
There are the bad - he wants to make the tax system "fairer" rather than reducing the burden overall - power to people really involves giving them their money back to spend how they want, not for government to spend on their behalf on something that doesn't benefit them, is an utter gimmick, or when the individual could spend the money much more efficiently on something that would benefit them more. The rise in the income tax threshold to £10,000 is very fair and will get more people off welfare than anything else, but funding it by a rise in CGT will, as Lord Forsyth argued in the Telegraph today, actually stop the jobs that these people might go into being created. The idea of Redwood et al, to tax short term investment a higher rate than long term investment, is far more sensible; even more radical would be to scrap CGT altogether and to allow the investment to just take place without the distortions that CGT brings.
And surely this nonsense about allowing government ministers to vote in the backbench 1922 Committee can't go ahead. A government, saying it wants to encourage localism and democracy, who then tries to practically abolish the backbenchers' forum is purely hypocritical.
Clegg said earlier:
"We don't, unlike Labour, believe that change in our society must be forced from the centre.
Unlike the previous Labour government, we're not insecure about relinquishing control."
This government will be made or broken on whether it gives power back to people. Labour has centralised, put power in the hands of the state. If Cameron can revive classical liberalism, bring that out of the Lib Dems, really works towards making the state smaller, society stronger and individuals more powerful when it comes to their own lives, then this coalition will work. If, however, he sells out to the crazy elements of the Lib Dems (PR, 'fairness', 'liberalism' etc) then the internal coalition will rebel, and the government will fall.
We will wait and see.
Saturday, 15 May 2010
The question is about accountability - and in their bureaucratic, state-holding-schools-accountable mindset they have forgotten the accountability of the market - parents taking their child (and money) elsewhere - so the good schools will get more children and more money, the bad schools won't survive, and yes, may have to shut down.
Inspections will help the judgement, but might some more market-based solutions come about? I'm talking not only inspection bodies themselves setting up, but even chains of schools, brand names, that incredibly important issue for any firm - and even for schools. And this is where the diversity of the market comes about - teaching techniques could vary from school to school (which would certainly have been to benefit to me these last few years - groupwork and Powerpoints every lesson has never worked) and the old word of innovation could make its comeback in finding best how to educate. Just as I know Snickers has nuts, a certain 'brand' of school could, for example, educate traditionally.
To make this accountability work - not exam league tables, but people actually recognising not just the results that come out of schools, but the skills, the type of person coming out of the school, the real knowledge, how ready they are for the real world....
And on that point, let's hope the policy works.
Friday, 14 May 2010
End-of-war recession to 1920, Harding cut hard and fast, cuts in public spending and taxation, recovery and golden years.
Wall Street Crash 1929, Hoover increases spending, doubles the size of government (oh how laissez-faire - there's one myth debunked), causes Great Depression.
So the "taking money out of the economy" brigade are just plain wrong, especially when we're talking 1% of GDP (out of 48% of GDP government spending).
Cut spending and then taxation hard? And please don't raise in Capital Gains Tax, whatever loopholes there are, it's the worst tax to raise when the Laffer curve comes into play (above 15% has bad effects I've heard).
And it makes sense that less money spent on government bonds is instead used by banks to lend to individuals (since they've been told to have more reserves).
Government spending cut from 48% of GDP to 30%? Sounds good.
Monday, 10 May 2010
And the UK returns to two-party politics, with no need for electoral reform?
Just a thought.
Behind closed doors, politicians decide on which parties join as a coalition (note to unhappy Lib Dems: you support every election having this result), who takes which Cabinet post, which manifesto pledges are dropped, and since Gordon decided to resign within recent minutes, which second consecutive unelected PM you get. Is this how the "more democratic" system will work?
Gordon Brown wants a Lib-Lab pact, despite his party being comprehensively beaten at the polls. Very democratic. Again, similar to what would happen under PR?
I've kept an open mind throughout this, but I think the whole episode has persuaded me that PR might be more representative, but at least with FPTP you know (normally) what you're voting for, who you're getting, and that you can kick a bad government out. And for those who say this election shows that FPTP doesn't create strong governments, people will remember it and will elect a strong government next time. Once in 35 years doesn't mean it doesn't produce them.
Sunday, 9 May 2010
Euro-zone leaders are attempting to get round objections from countries such as Britain by invoking Article 122 of the Lisbon Treaty, intended to enable a collective response to natural disasters. This does not need unanimous agreement.So like it or not, make the right decisions, stay out of the Euro, and you still have to pay up. Because that will stop countries making bad decisions in the future. No, it'll mean that we don't learn from our mistakes - that the Eurozone was never one of these "Optimal Currency Zones" that economists have talked about.
But that isn't what annoys me. The bit that says "intended to enable a collective response to natural disasters". Natural disasters. The Greek debt problem is not natural. Even if it's those evil speculators, as the left-wing press seem to be saying, it's not natural - in fact you could say it's even more artificial. It's of their own making - they borrowed too cheaply for too long in the good years, built up a massive budget deficit, are in a lot of debt, and can't afford to borrow because they won't pay it back. That's not natural, that's their fault, and they should pay for it. It's certainly nothing to do with us.
While I'm sympathetic to something like 3-member STV (like Ireland), the British way is wide coalitions of people with generally similar principles. Labour a belief in government solutions, Conservatives a belief in people and society making those solutions, Lib Dems......let's not go there, but they are possibly the widest coalition (where else would you have economic liberals and economic statists together?). A factioned political system is not the British way. I don't want to sound too dogmatic here about "the British way", but we don't do internal haggling - we put it to the voters, let them decide the path.
At least under FPTP, whatever its disadvantages, the party that’s elected has to implement the policies in its manifesto. And if it doesn’t, it can be kicked out. Not so with most forms of PR. Have you been listening to some of the arguments in favour of reform, particularly on the Left? Reform would mean a permanent centre-left coalition in this country, they say. But since when has permanent government by the same two parties been remotely democratic? This argument, to me, is the best reason not to go for reform. I’m a democrat. I believe that if we’re beaten by the Tories, they should form the government. It’s up to the electorate to decide if they want a change of government, not poitical parties.
But what’s wrong with coalition government? Nothing at all. In fact, I’m in favour of coalitions. We’ve had coalition government in this country for decades. Labour is probably a broader coalition than what already exists in some proportional European systems. Any party that can accommodate Frank Field (or me, for that matter) and John McDonnell and Dennis Skinner is a very broad church indeed. The same goes for the Tory party. Because FPTP forces parties to broaden their appeal, to be open to a far wider range of opinion than would be the case under PR. And our democracy is the better for it.
The coalition negotiations, behind closed doors, are a fantastic argument against PR, since it's exactly what would happen. The same politicians, the same minor parties in the coalition, the same ones you just can't get rid of.
I want a strong Parliament, that holds government to account, that has MPs who are actually accountable to constituents, a specific number holding one specific person to account. While something like 3-member STV might be a more proportional way while somewhat keeping to that, I think there are things we can do now that would make FPTP work better: boundary reviews that seem to be out of date and don't take it to account that we maybe have a 3-party system on our hands; open primaries; recall elections - that sort of thing. Then perhaps we can look at the accountability issue a few years down the line, see how it works, see how maturely people react to open primaries (judging by the moustaches on posters, I'm not optimistic) and so on.
So I'm not sure. Keep an open mind, see how things pan out, and don't do anything knee-jerk or silly (Labour supporting voting reform as they are about to lose an election is one such silly reaction).
Friday, 7 May 2010
Yes, there are disagreements, electoral reform being one of the major ones - why not put it to the House? We have legislators for a reason, they just aren't used properly enough. And in fact the 2010 Conservative manifesto had something of an old Liberal feel about it - might some Lib Dems actually feel comfortable with a good lot of what's in the manifesto?
As for electoral reform, I'll talk about that in a future blogpost. But it's probably worth Cameron going it alone, getting some stuff through, showing he's serious and he's taking the decisions, then calling a second election. But first, he also needs to sell conservatism to a sceptical public, sell the fact that government is not the answer to everything.
(in other news today, a load of youngish (7-11) kids decided to jump on me and make lots of noise because I said I voted Conservative. The poor souls seem to think voting Labour/Lib Dem is better for unemployment, or is somehow 'helping the poor'. They're young, I'll let them off.)
Thursday, 22 April 2010
If this is passed on to consumers, well, who cares? The consumers are getting something of value from it: deposit insurance.That's the main point I think, and the best reason for someone like myself to support it. As long as the revenue is ringfenced as deposit insurance, that is.
Which then brings up questions of whether this can be optional, whether banks opt-in or consumers opt-in (or opt-out), and it all gets rather complex.
Monday, 19 April 2010
Saturday, 17 April 2010
Another interesting thing is that I didn't personally find a single Lib Dem voter, and of all of us, there weren't many there. So this resurgence is nonsense to me.
It's target seat #117, so needs to be won for a Conservative majority in Parliament. Flynn seems to be treating it as something of his safe seat from what I've seen; let's hope not.
Tuesday, 13 April 2010
The Conservative Party manifesto; plain on the cover, but inside of it something else. For too long, "they are all the same" has controlled the mainstream argument (as has "the Tories haven't changed", blah blah). The manifesto today, for me, disproved it. It shows a distinct difference between the Labour approach and the Conservative approach; Labour favour the big government solution, while the Conservatives look for less government, power to people, the responsibility approach, and yes LibDems, the DIY approach!
That is inherently the conservative way. For too long, and for 13 years under New Labour, government has grown larger and larger, inheriting roles that people and society should have taken up, taking more people on to the payroll, be it the bloated public sector, the expansion of tax credits to the middle classes, and whatever else - and taking away these things seems politically unthinkable. We have a new interest group that, ignoring economics and the basics of opportunity cost, has been paid to support this larger state. And it's time that it changed, we got back to a British model, where government does less and people do more.
And for all the "One Nation" talk of this, it suits the libertarian-conservative Welshman in this corner. Though I have my qualms with some of the training "community organisers", protecting NHS spending and whatnot, there are some inherently conservative things in this manifesto. Take free schools (which should settle a few votes), freeing schools up, taking away the targets and looking for diversity and innovation - what's wrong with the postcode lottery if it leads to us finding a better way? I'm not sure how much there's a link between government and society in this manifesto, and I'm hoping they are made quite separate, but for people to do more and to organise themselves without government is certainly something I can support. A model of individuals controlling their own lives and doing things themselves, without government pretending it's a charity, organiser, planner, or anything else? Fantastic.
I was concerned that we'd lost conservative principles, that Cameron wasn't a conservative, and so on. Seeing this manifesto today, however much I'd like to see some of the main policies highlighted in there (but that's just a presentation issue), I know quite clearly who I should vote for. This manifesto should win the election; it sets out a different vision for the future. Whether people see that, overcome their prejudices, the "all the same" nonsense, fringe parties and so on, will probably decide this election.
Tuesday, 23 February 2010
Let's get to the causes here before we talk solutions - Greece has spend too much. It has, as a member of the eurozone, borrowed far too cheaply, and they've gone from budget surplus to 12.7% deficits (give or take some dodgy accounting).
Clearly then this is an issue of Greece spending too much - and it should cut back - not be funded in its profligacy. Perhaps the public sector workers will go on strike - it's their problem, their governments' irresponsibility. They've got used to too much spending, and have to return to normalcy at some point. If not, they'll go bust - and that will send an even more powerful message.
What does it say to Ireland, whose government has made the necessary cuts and austerity measures in order to avoid bankruptcy? The responsible bailing out the irresponsible? What does it say when the Eurozone actually breaks its own rules in order to save its own skin, just to stop it breaking up?
Economists talk of 'optimal currency areas'; the Eurozone was never one. Countries like Greece have shown that, enjoying German interest rates which overheated their economies. Now they are paying the price - and I don't think it will cause the eurozone to break up, but it would send a powerful message about currency unions - they don't work, except with very similar economies (take the USA).
Thank heavens the UK didn't join.
But we are moving in totally the wrong direction. I don’t know how many times I hear people demanding a more consensual style of politics, asking us to put aside political affiliations and work for the good of the people that elected them. This is only making it worse.
After the expenses scandal, this view has become even more dominant. Yet the vast majority of us were elected only because we stood for a political party. In fact, Parliament is predicated on the very existence of political parties. It’s how we organise ourselves.
But our system breaks down when our political parties are not ideologically distinct. Today, we define our differences by dividing lines. We ask a small group of people — a focus group — what they care about, and then ask them what they want us to do about it. That’s not politics. That’s marketing. It’s turning us into admen and PR agents.
The politics of focus groups makes politicians reactive. We should lead, persuade and inspire. We should argue for what we think is right, even if popular opinion is against us. Leadership is about taking risks, even if that means losing our positions as a result.
Politics and politicians need to encourage big ideas and promote different ways of organising our society. Parliament should be a forum for clashing ideas again. And politicians need to rediscover that being an MP is about more than doing a job. It’s about being in a privileged position to put into practice deeply held beliefs and ideas.
When we debate parliamentary reform this week, we need to talk about getting back to first principles. Papering over the cracks won’t do any more. We need to tear down the flock wallpaper and fix the plasterwork underneath.
Well written, well thought out piece - read it. I think she's right - Parliament should be a place where ideas clash, MPs should be thinkers, legislators - as well as people who hold the executive to account.
The "expenses reforms" miss the point. I've already posted about why the new IPSA quango is wrong - in fact it subverts democracy further. The problem in this country is that the executive and the European Union hold too much power - and MPs aren't really sure what their role is.
They should be scrutinising legislation, coming up with ideas themselves - Parliament, the mother of all Parliaments, should be where great minds come together to really get the best solution.
What a load of illiberal tosh. State intervention to force people to be more healthy? Is this not Britain? The freedom-loving nation of individual responsibility? This is not an issue for governments to take responsibility for! It's a matter for individuals, if anything else wasn't.
Don't get me wrong, I think healthy is good. I keep myself in good shape because, well, I wouldn't mind living past 60, and bulging biceps look good. That's my choice. Other people don't follow it. The thought of me forcing someone else to get into shape if they don't want to twitches every bone in my body. The thought of government, with its monopoly of force, forcing everyone to be healthy nearly knocks me over.
There are other practical problems. What constitutes a 'large' portion? It seems too subjective to be written into legislation. What is 'near the till'? Shops vary in size. What are 'health products'? Couldn't retailers find ways around that one? Councils clearing up more dog dirt? That's an issue for local electorates to decide.
Why are we even in a country where such a proposal does not cause outrage? Why are we in a country which, once renowned for freedom, actually sees these proposals from as high a level as Scottish government ministers? I know socialists control Scotland, but this proposal is truly shocking.
Thursday, 18 February 2010
That's just DEFRA.
There are two others I don't like - the one about not leaving stuff visible to thieves (how about stop pretending victims of crime have themselves to blame and put the money into improving the police) and the science and maths one with the climate forecaster - "it's more of the same I'm afraid unless we do something about it" - with a terrible joke at the end - how about putting the money into improving education perhaps? And stop making political points (scientists study what's happening, not what to do, as far as I'm concerned).
And above all, they become incredibly annoying when you just get government adverts thrown at you on radio, TV, Spotify especially is a particularly bad one. Why are government adverts annoying? Because they haven't got to make money from adverts. The adverts are of benefit to no one, they just patronise people and annoy them. The theft one is both patronising and drains confidence in the police's ability to fight crime.
It's not the government's place to advertise and tell us how to behave anyway. Leave where I leave my stuff to me, how much I drink to me, what I do to me - and I can find out the information without government advertising, and take responsibility for my own life. And with the sort of fiscal hole we're in, £253 million on advertising should be one of the first things to go. Propaganda has no place in a free society.
Thursday, 11 February 2010
Parliament should be supreme. The IPSA will now be supreme. It's not accountable to anyone. It is not a British solution to the problem; the problem was overclaiming, and the solution is that the public want to know what their MP is claiming.
Not only this, but it's going to cost £6 million. £6 million! To put that into perspective, MPs overclaimed by £1 million. It's a normal governmental waste of money.
When will someone stand up, abolish this quango, and say that all we need is full transparency? Voters will be able to hold their MP accountable for what they claim. If they don't like it, MP is out. Simple. The voter should be the only regulator of the Commons, not IPSA.
Friday, 5 February 2010
The real question facing Britain is not how to nudge people but how to give them power over their own lives. The need for collective action is clearMake your mind up, power over their lives i.e. less government or collective action i.e. more government (and less power over their own lives).
Labour just don't have a clue.
12, nearly 13 years of more government, it's failed, it's clearly caused problems, and they want to expand government further.
Because that's logical.
Thursday, 4 February 2010
Truly to take power, he said, one had to set the terms of debate. He had a phrase for it: the “verbal snares” that Labour sets for Conservatives. If a Tory party takes power yet uses Labour’s language, judges success by Labour’s yardsticks and confines itself to Labour’s ambitions, that’s not change. It’s more of the same.He's got it right - Cameron seems to shudder every time a criticism of conservative values comes in (generally in defunct New Labour newspeak) and I'm not totally sure what the Party currently stands for. The Conservative Party needs to embrace conservative ideology and conservative values, not Labour values. The schools reform is a start, but this needs to be our attitude to governing.
One thing I found interesting was his link to Ted Heath, who got booted out but whose manifesto was then delivered by Thatcher. I might just be speculating, but could Cameron be a Heath, who then gets replaced by a 'proper' conservative after a one-term government? Daniel Hannan comes to mind, but I doubt it (he's more of a libertarian anyway). On second thoughts, even David Davis?
Cameron needs to start being a radical conservative (however much that phrase sounds like an oxymoron). Stop using Labour's language, Labour's ideas, Labour's values, and give a real change, a conservative change, a change that supports people and really transfers power to them, not just some words that actually create more state power.
Read Fraser Nelson's speech. He's got it spot on.
Tuesday, 2 February 2010
But equalities legislation is now extending much further, violating even the old compact with those inclined to tolerate private Christianity. For Christians are now not to be tolerated acting as Christians even in their Christian-to-Christian dealings and in their explicitly Christian institutions. Christian schools are not to be permitted to insist on having Christian pupils, Christians teachers, Christian cleaners and Christian cooks. Even in Christian churches, only those for which specifically religious duties are most of the job have any material exemptions from equalities legislation.
The Equality Bill must be stopped. If I discriminate, I might lose out, lose money, etc. It's my responsibility, and my problem. Equality legislation just shifts the burden on to the state and the courts, so should be opposed.
Not only this, but the religious issue as in the post I've linked to - religious freedom means the freedom for religious institutions to include who they want to within their bounds. No, lack of legislation will not (and does not) make faith schools some detached institutions, or ban non-believers from churches. And it's their loss if they don't open up to non-believers, who may come to believe.
Us Christians are in a difficult position as it is, with social oppression. Legal oppression would take us back to a bygone era. This Equality Bill is illiberal, and should not pass.
Sunday, 31 January 2010
Internet is good, broadband even better. It has revolutionised the way we work. That is the reason it has spread - it has huge benefits that outweigh the costs. In fact, some people pay for high-speed broadband to be wired to their house, at a cost of several thousand, to make their houses worth more (according to the Economist, I think). That's the market at work - and it's done the job well, and is still doing the job well.
The first issue to grasp is why rural areas don't have broadband - not profitable to supply. That's fair enough - if you live in a rural area, that's a choice you make - you tend to be rich enough to choose to, so the government shouldn't be subsidising your broadband. Rural area or broadband, that's the choice.
It's not government's place to be involved in broadband, TV, etc - simply because of all the old arguments about not knowing individuals' needs. Sell it all off, that includes the BBC and Channel 4, abolish the licence fee, etc. No need for the government to own it. And not only that, but if we allow government to pay for the broadband (even if it is with our own money), we hold ourselves open to government saying they should be able to control what goes down those cables.
Tuesday, 26 January 2010
As the member who made the latter picture (a satirical reproduction of one of the examiner's comments in the official textbook), I wish to clarify for the readers of the Mail what exactly the problem is - this is not a sulk for more marks or easier exams.
It was meant to be a biology exam; and we are, unfortunately, guinea pigs for a new specification in which traditional knowledge-based learning has been dumbed-down by holier-than-thou 'progressive' examiners have attempted to replace this partially with 'How Science Works' questions which are not based on the subject matter.
This last exam was the worst yet; out of 75 marks on the paper, no more than 15 (I estimate) could be gained through any knowledge of Biology. One had to see it to believe it; there was page after page of new-age nonsense, followed by a single question on Biology.
Everything that we had learnt and revised was utterly worthless, since actual biology was all but omitted from the paper. This is our quarrel!
I did an exam earlier. It was A Level, and it was AQA, and it was the "new syllabus", etc. Geography rather than Biology, but it was the same rubbish - basically glorified coursework. "Geography Skills" they call it - it was so blatantly not "skills" that I had to pre-write answers to questions in order to get anything above a D (I tend to get As). The questions weren't Geography - they were asking me how I did my fieldwork, about statistical tests - and yes, I put some theory in, but that won't get me many marks. And that's 30% of my A2 I believe.
Yes, I haven't made a post in nearly a fortnight because I've been learning how to answer exam questions.
Questions like "Assess the usefulness of one method used to collect data for the investigation" in the first section, then "An A Level student has proposed this hypothesis...with reference to the data, is it valid?". It's not Geography. I only got anywhere with it because I had practice at the questions, not because of my knowledge, not even because I "applied knowledge" or whatever this week's buzzword/phrase is.
Back to the Biology paper - I was one of the "guinea pigs" for the new Science GCSE a couple of years back - and I know people that have done science A Levels have struggled, mainly because the new GCSE is so awful. Apparently it's meant to be more relevant; shame it's not proper science that will get anyone anywhere.
I want to read PPE at a good university next year. Will this utter dumbing-down help me? No, it won't. I want exams that require rigour, that will reward extra reading, that reward knowledge and reward understanding that knowledge. Train me to succeed, train my mind to work so it applies what knowledge I have so it gets decisions made and things done by all means, but not with exams that require certain answers. "Applying my knowledge" is nothing to do with these new-fangled exams. They are nonsense.
Proper exams, please. Throw as much money as you want at education, if you control the Curriculum and exams so they don't reward knowledge, students won't learn, and education becomes altogether pointless.
Thursday, 14 January 2010
"So what about the BNP? The trouble is that it is a national socialist party. Take a look at its 2005 election manifesto. You won’t find much about reducing the power of the state and increasing that of the individual. It has a curiously dated air of the 1960s and 1970s, with talk of controlling the commanding heights of the economy and building barriers to trade. To be kind to the BNP, one might call it a corporatist party. To put it more roughly, one might say that it is a fascist party, a Left-wing authoritarian party. One thing is certain. As a socialist party, the BNP can only be part of the problem, not part of the solution."Norman Tebbit.
His decision to start blogging is one of the best decisions he's made. Great writer and one of those politicians you have to respect.
Wednesday, 13 January 2010
He needs to stop talking nonsense. I go to a good faith school, it has that Christian ethos to it, but is not something "insular" and is not "homophobic". In fact it's more tolerant than the local state school, something indeed taught in Christianity. As a matter of fact, I'd say it's easier to be openly gay in that school than openly Christian. It's easier to be openly atheist than openly Christian. Yes, in a Christian school.
As mentioned elsewhere, for the leader of an apparently liberal party to make such an illiberal statement ("let's force this on schools") is also, I suppose, incredibly intolerant of individual cases, and parents' wishes.
Clegg claims to preach tolerance, but is in fact being intolerant of what faith schools are, and what real Christians believe. Not only this, but he is not being some sort of liberal, but in fact preaching the same centralisation and control he claims to oppose. It's about time he took a look inside a faith school for himself and sorted out his prejudices.
Saturday, 9 January 2010
Led by MP Syed Kamall, I think it gets straight to the point of what progressive conservatism is - shifting power back to the individual, be it social or economic. And I think that sums up my views quite nicely - give the responsibility of as much as possible to the individual, so government can't become too involved, too responsible, or left to do everything.
Take the snow. Why can't people clear their own "bit" of the pavement? Wouldn't that be more efffective than government? Sorry, Health and Safety doesn't allow it.
About time we trusted individuals, voluntary groups, just real people instead of government. The ends to my political philosophy.
Wednesday, 6 January 2010
Tuesday, 5 January 2010
Since when did judges overrule elected bodies? Since when did local authorities become unaccountable?
Serious changes are needed so that local authorities have much more autonomy, and won't just be overruled by courts - they can always be voted out at the next election.
Sunday, 3 January 2010
He also rejected claims that he was engaging in class warfare against David Cameron, saying that his jibe about Tory policy being dreamt up on the playing fields of Eton was a joke.
He told host Andrew Marr: ''If you think the playing fields of Eton was anything other than a joke then I am afraid you take your politics too seriously.''
Mr Brown said he attacked Mr Cameron for "having the wrong views... he will take us backwards" rather than because of his background.
Yeah, say what you what, you meant that jibe, you're just trying to cover your own skin. We've all used the "I was joking" excuse, this is a U-turn on tactics because you've realised it won't work. Pull the other one.
On the day he allows the use of full body scanners. When did Parliament vote on it?