Tuesday 31 October 2006


I have posted on both Dizzythinks and Ellee recently about the pernicious effect of lawyers. A few thoughts below on my increasing dismay with the effect they have on government.

The UK is the world leader in Legal Affairs. All the top law firms in the world are UK based or UK run, top graduates and scion of wealthy families inevitably contribute to the legal world.

This has some good benefits, we have a legal aid system with enough lawyers to staff it and a set of City based firms that pay good wages and taxes.

However then there is the negatives: The hundreds of failed lawyers trying to get into parliament (one is even PM now, eh?). The over-representation of the legal strand in our country is a huge hold back to our development.

Lawyers always think the law is best and that is their solution to any problem; trust the law, not trust the market or trust people. Tony Blair clearly believes this, he can't make enough laws fast enough in his whole time in power; but what have all these laws achieved?

One thing they do achieve is to hobble good governance and common sense. Take Dizzy's post on the EU. The UK takes a legalistic approach to its commitments, we suffer from its poorly thought out edicts like Rural farm Payments, the French and Germans ignore the rules and so do no suffer. Even on the major issues like economic governance these two countries just ignore the parts they don't like.

In the UK many new laws are argued over in legal detail to the point at which their paragraphs become so vague and accommodating that they cease to mean anything; the new laws are pointless and instead start a new wave of 'challenge' cases.

But it is more pernicious than this, the liberal elite who are the top lawyers at the moment, babyboomers them all, have other agenda's. They fight any cause all the way to the European Parliament (their fees being important here, Lawyers are not interested in right and wrong per se). On some major issues, like the defence of liberty, this is a public good. Increasingly however, the attention is turned to marriage, 'human rights' etc. Here the lawyers campaining for their clients to the detriment of society and the riches of themselves (a case in point, Cherie Blair).

I am not saying all lawyers are bad, but the legal system we have is being abused by the lawyers for their own benefit. Having possibly hundreds of lawyers in Parliament exacerbates this situation.

We need less lawyers in Parliament and more representatives from the rest of society; the current make up does us no good at all as a society.

Monday 30 October 2006


So much to write on the current loopiness of the environmental pronuoncements of all parties. However today Wat Tyler does a better job than I could.

Just to add, I am very concerend that the media chatterati are just lapping all this rubbish up.

Who is going to declare that the emperor has no clothes?

What has happened to the Tory party; going green has also meant losing touch with reality on this issue entirely.

Vote Blue, Red Orange - vote for poverty.

Hayden Philips Update

I blogged below about the Sir Hayden Philips review. I managed to free up some time today to attend his webchat in the hope of at least getting in the last word on behalf of taxpayers; which fortunately I managed.

My Q&A is below:

Scenario statistics?
Having reviewed the website forum I thought it would be interesting to have the statistics for each of the 4 scenarios' outlined in the interim review.
By this I mean how many posts or posters were in favour of the 4 scenario's put forward.
I appreciate the chance to give feedback and I would be most interested to know the overall balance of views thus far. I would be concerned if the whole report did not hold any reflection of the strength of feeling as well as the breadth of debate.

The forum pre-dated setting
Posted by Sir Hayden Phillips on 30/10/2006 - 14:49
The forum pre-dated setting out the four scenarios. But I want to make it clear that those scenarios were not options from which to choose but a way of illustrating the issues involved. The point of publishing the interim assessment, and of this webchat, is to get peoples views on these issues. What are yours?

My view is that there is little wrong with the current system that an independent review body could not fix. The government did away with a parliamentary regulator, Elizabeth Filkin as I remember, who was doing a good job of policing parliamentarians.

This kind of approach would allow Labour to continue to receive union funding and Tories / Lib Dems their funding too, without further taxation.

The current system is also not bad in comparison with other democracies. The current investigations prove that it works, not that it is a fiddle. Cheaters are being caught.
From many people I have spoken too there is no appetite for increasing public funds from where they are today.

I think that the current politicians have two agenda;

Seeking a way to keep the established status quo and make it more difficult for new parties to emerge and break the consensus;

Reducing their need to rely on donors/public for funds for election and therefore reducing the need to engage directly with a public who can disagree with their views.

Britain is a free country at heart and its democracy has lasted hundreds of years without the need for substantial state funding of political parties. I hope that the outcome of your review is that this remains the case.

There were also some other useful questions with hazy answers, the best two of which are below:

Daylight robbery !
Posted by Colin McNamee ( I am guessing the UKIP candidate
here) on October 30th 2006
The discussions of the three main political parties are giving bias in their favour at the expense of smaller political parties and Independents and therefore to the detriment of democracy. It will inhibit the growth of other parties and political positions.
41% of the electorate chose not to vote in the 2005 General Election.
With the overspending during the 2005 General Election, which each party did voluntarily, the three main parties are activity discussing the taxpayer to finance their unprincipled behaviour.
A maximum to be levied on monies spent by all political parties equally and for them to have to act and fund raise within the law and be provably seen to do. The use of taxpayers money will be an open cheque to these profligate spenders.
State funding applies on the Continent and it has not stopped corruption by political parties of public funds in Germany, France and Italy.
Your interim assessment indicates an overwhelming lack of support from the public for State Funding, as this is a democracy that counts. It is also their money.
Based on just the above where is there any justification for the State Funding of political parties in the UK?

By talking of “Party Funding” going ahead, I assume you mean providing more public funds for political parties. I want to underline that no decisions have yet been made about this or any other aspect of a new system of funding for political parties. However I would make three points in response to your general views.First, a substantial sum of public money already goes to political parties under the existing system, and much of it is long standing. Second, even if no more public funds went in future to political parties, other changes to the party funding system should be directed towards encouraging parties to make better contact with the voters than they do now. Third, if I recommend more public funds for parties, that will not only require greater accountability and transparency but also place an even clearer obligation on them to engage better with the electorate. It is this part of political and democratic reform to use your own words, with which my review is engaged.

And from Slim Jim:

We are currently experiencing the highest levels of taxation in our history. If party funding goes ahead, what possible benefits will the taxpayer see? Unless this proposal is accompanied by much-needed political and democratic reform, it will be seen as just another stealth tax, will it not? We need greater accountability, not more taxation (without representation!).

By talking of “Party Funding” going ahead, I assume you mean providing more public funds for political parties. I want to underline that no decisions have yet been made about this or any other aspect of a new system of funding for political parties. However I would make three points in response to your general views.First, a substantial sum of public money already goes to political parties under the existing system, and much of it is long standing. Second, even if no more public funds went in future to political parties, other changes to the party funding system should be directed towards encouraging parties to make better contact with the voters than they do now. Third, if I recommend more public funds for parties, that will not only require greater accountability and transparency but also place an even clearer obligation on them to engage better with the electorate. It is this part of political and democratic reform to use your own words, with which my review is engaged.

Conservative and Labour have both overspent. If they were individuals or corporations they would be bankrupt.
If there is to be public funding should there not at least be a requirement that parties live within their expanded means?

No decisions have yet been made. However, more public funding does not seem to me to be the only or necessarily primary reason why parties should be expected generally to live within their means. Equally – like individuals or corporations – they should be able, within the law, to raise money provided they can clearly foresee how they can meet their financial obligations.

In conclusion it can quite clearly be seen that Sir Hayden is well down the road to wanting more state funding. Whether he will find a way of balancing this with some independent review I do not know.

When the report is finally issued I will review with a nice bottle of cold Reisling to dull the pain......

Thursday 26 October 2006

A pointless exercise

I have been sent the below today by Sir Philip Hayden:

"This is your advance invitation to join me in an online question and answer hour on Monday 30 October at 2pm (1400 GMT). This webchat follows the publication of our interim assessment and I am inviting you early as a way of saying thank you for your participation in our online forum."


"By entering into a dialogue with you through the forum, asking you questions and listening to what you have to say, we have fed your views into our analytical work and my discussions with the political parties.
Last Thursday I published an interim assessment setting out the main issues as they appear to me; and the choices that face the public and political parties. The debate on party funding has moved on. Choices now need to be made between sometimes conflicting views on these issues."

My and most other views on the forum were vehemently against giving Parties any more State funding and also withdrawing the ability of unions to give money to labour willy-nilly, this should be an interesting webchat.

Sir Phillip's interim assessment helpfully summarises all the views and clearly marks out the case for extra government funding.

So now I feel cheated twice, firstly because the review is the sham it was always going to be; secondly because this is at a cost to me as a taxpayer.

Tuesday 24 October 2006

A sad short tale

One of my burdens is to be a Leeds Utd fan; although they do so badly in recent times that I am nearly cured of my illness.

However, to read today on the BBC, that a once mortal enemy, Dennis Wise of ex-Chelsea (and alleged ABH on a London taxi driver) is to be the new manager, drives me to despair

Things are bad; but you may as well appoint Beelzebub or David Blunkett to take us down again.

What next to test me? George Galloway for PM maybe....

Fortunately, I have a pass for a few drinks out in London tonight to help ease the sorrow.

Sunday 22 October 2006

Reform of the House of Lords

The Sunday Times has managed to get hold of the government's latest ideas on reforming the House of Lords, here. Thanks too to Croydonian, who started my thought process on this off last week.

Overall there are many issues that it raises and few that is answers succintly. Partly this is becaue the reform is, as ever, ill-though; and partly because it is a difficult subject to address.

The overall recommendation is to have a semi-elected chamber, with a complex open list system to be used.

The document does not discuss many key points:
- An overall assesment of what our consitutional government should look like.
- Role of the Lords vs the EU.
- Appointment of professionals other than politicans to the house.
- Revision of the powers of the Upper House
- Cost to the public v. the benefit of the Upper House.
- Negative effects of abolishing life peers
- Powers of the House in Legal Affairs
- The West Lothian Question and other issues as they apply to the Lords.

Instead, there is a discussion getting regional balance, gender and racial balance correct. It seems very thin to say the least and unfailingly politically correct.

In the main the proposals are to elect some members and have term limits, with payment, which means that taxpayers will get it in the pocket. It will become another stop on the gravy train for politico's and their hangers' on.

How such a weak document, that avoids most of the main issues, can be issued as a government 'float' for reform is beyond me. It is far from lear what this reform would achieve beyond the current fudge that exists.

One point to make with my business head on is that the upper chamber desperately needs accountants and businessment rather than more lawyers to help take the government to task on its ill-thought out policies. Our country desperately needs an improvement in its financial goverance of the Government; I see nothing in this paper that recognises this as an issue at all.

I just hope that they take so long to argue over it that this government is swept from power before it can enact this 'paper' to destroy our country's historic system of goverment.

Tuesday 17 October 2006

Green's in a Twist

Tim Worstall has written a great piece on the latest report by Friends of the Earth on climate change effects and cost.

Do read the post yourself, but Tim shows just how woolly much of the thinking and number crunchig can be behind these so called 'studies'; the subject of many of my recent posts.

In fact his conclusion that we should do nothing is surely the opposite of what those writing the report wanted to happen.

You wonder if they even read their own report through properly. I did a Master's degree myself and if my thesis (which incidentally was on the idoicy of the UK joining the ERM) had the lack of coherent logic of this report I would still be re-writing it today!

Monday 16 October 2006

London Mosque & Merkaz

Just seen the Newsnight package on the new Merkaz mosque being planned to welcome our tourists to the Olympics. Even the BBC investigation managed to raise many questions about the funding, purpose and governance of the proposed mosque ( to be the largest site of worship in the UK).

The devastating conclusion is that a quango and the communities minister, Ruth 'mad dog' Kelly, get to decide if this can go ahead.

This is a great piece of journalism; hard as I find it to praise the BBC. Let's raise the awareness of this and have the people funding the mosque investigated further to reveal their sources of funding and whether they are suitable to build and run such an instituion.

P.S. The leader of the 7/7 bombers was a worshipper at the Merkaz mosque in Dewsbury.

650,000 deaths in Iraq, that's nothing.

There were 2 big Iraq stories last week. One was the General Dannat speaking out about the failure of our occupation and the need to withdraw. The second was the publication by a US medical think tank of studies (The Lancet).

The latter was completed on a very odd set of rules about what to use as evidence. In fact even the BBC has allowed a story which is implicitly critical of the numbers.

I have done some thinking about this and have looked into UK deaths. Did you know that since 2003 there have been 1,50,000 people die in the UK (see here for NAO Stats). What has President Bush done to stop this? Or Tony Blair, is he doing enough to stop 500,000 deaths of UK citizens per year?

How many of these are due to terrorism or violence? We don't know for sure but using the Lancet's methodology of just asking people and believing what they say it could number hundreds of thousands. It does not take a great leap of imagination to come up with a few ideas of why Iraqi people would want to blame US/UK actions for their sad losses.

In fact, Iraq has a population of 26 million people. That is 43% of the population of England, so they could have had 43% of our deaths in the last 3 years. That would be 649,000 deaths in Iraq. Odd, eh?

Now I am not trying to deny that there have been thousands of deaths casued by war and violence in Iraq; only that the Lancets use of statisistics is about as convincing as mine above.

Friday 13 October 2006

Brown joins Sion in the Loony Bin

Many of the newspapers today are reporting on HMRC's latest wheeze to crack down on all those who work. (Times article here)

Basically, Good Fairy Gordo has decided that any use of electronic equipment for more than 20% of the time should incur a tax charge for use. Otherwise those directed organisations that actually employ people are accused of handing out tax free gifts.

This notion is so ridiculous I can't actually belief that I read this and that it comes from a credible source. It makes the Sion Simon video look well thought-through with high production values.

Let's start with some basic questions:

How many companies are keen on giving their staff loads of free gifts?
Why would they want them to have PDA's if not to send personal emails and do calendar entries for dinner parties?
How easy to make staff keep records of this behaviour?

It is total rubbish. Except that I would hazard a guess that this is the sort of behaviour found in public sector workers who are given blackberries and PDA's.

Not only is this guaranteed to alienate the city audience, all of whom have such devices, of which Gordo so craves the attention (as does Jack Dromey for different reasons...), but also introduces a whole new layer of potential restrictions on people's freedom.

For how easy will it be now for companies not only to ban all personal communication at work but also to then quote tax evasion to use this to deprive people of jobs. It would be an extension of the hoary old
'expenses investigations' to get rid of unwanted staff without redundancy.

Surely though, this is so daft as to never see the light of day. One can only hope...

Wednesday 11 October 2006

The real issue at BA

On Monday British Airways lost 2 executives as a result of an internal BA probe into price fixing. The press as usual, and the BBC (see yesterday's post below) have decided that BA has a huge case to answer and will be fined up to £1 billion.

This is nonsense, even if guilty of carte lbehaviour in cargo and surcharge flights, a fine will only apply to a small fraction of BA's operations, meaning that even the maximum fine would be considerably less, perhaps £30 million at most. This would still be the largest fine ever for a UK plc. Nonetheless, with profits at over £650 million for the year, BA could swallow this. It is not as if the firm pays a dividend to shareholders anyway.

The real issue for BA are the
BA Pension talks, the Unions have taken a hard line as expected and they really do want £1 billion put into their staff pension fund. This would hugely hamper one of the only truly successful major carriers. Why? Well BA needs to upgrade its ageing fleet and this will be hampered if debts are increased massively instead to pay the pensions.

I have blogged on the state of our pensions before and here I wanted to put the case from the other side for a change. BA is a successful business and employs 40,000 people, threatening it with Union action over pensions is very destabalising and do we really want the company share price to fall enough that it attracts a bid from Emirates?

Unions, Management and Staff need to be realistic about the future and come to a sensible compromise.

Monday 9 October 2006

Plane Corruption

Just finished watching the Money programme tonight on the BA/Virgin price fixing story.

Wow was this dumbed down, scenes of the reporter virtually explaining what a flight is, also enjoying a spa and a massage. There was also a history of the airline industry in the UK.

All time filling because the show has nothing to add to the story. Relying on US Class Action lawyers for accusations to throw at the lawyers. These are the people who try to sue because burgers are bad for you.

I find the idea that BA & Virgin co-operated are fantastical. They hate each other and staff even rarely move between them. Also the programme makes out as if they have a market monopoly on US-UK flights when of course United and American can fly too; not mention of this. No mention of United and American being heavily subsidised to stay in business by the US Government.

The BA executives involved resigned today which suggests that BA are at fault and will pay a fine.

Poor show though, there is little enough business focused TV and lame efforts like this make me wish for even less!

Police take action...of sorts

See here for the Police coverage of a demonstration today by 'Sack Parliament' protesters (read anti-war socialists and anarchists).

On the plus side, the plus side the police managed to injur one protester who was by this account threatening them with a camera.

On the down-side the BBC reported yesterday that over 800 police had been assigned to duty in case of any trouble; 40 protesters have turned up today. So a propoganda vicotry to them and a hard won vicotry over the taxpayer who has had to fork out for this nonsense.

But really, when out-numbered by 20-1 you would have thought the police could arrest a few more or even accidentally hurt a few in a harsh-but-necessary baton charge.

Instead they have just wasted a fortune for a day out in Parliament Square to amuse the tourists and protect MP's - what few of them will be there at this time of year!

Sunday 8 October 2006

Quote of the week

Whilst watching BBC3 news '60 seconds' last night, I saw the following on the roll-bar:

'Babyshambles have cancelled the remaining dates of their UK to ur in order to allow Pete Doherty to revocer from drug rehab.'

I think we can all guess at how he would go about this 'recovery'!

Friday 6 October 2006

Officially, nonsense

There had been a press release by the ONS today of which much has been made in the media
(here). It is the latest official estimate of migrants into the country and is spun so badly that even a small child could see the holes.

Firstly, it measures international people traffic in and out of the country and secondly the number of new NI numbers issued. Using both these measures it comes up with 1.5 million foreign nationals working in the UK this last year and 400,000 new economic migrants (in one year!).

This is a big number, but crucially help the government by ignoring:

a) asylum seekers,
b) people who don't register for NI, i.e. all the casual labourers, lots of bar staff, waitresses etc,
c) even if you did register for NI, you may have left the country again
d) People who entered the country without needing any checks, e.g. if you arrive by coach at Victoria you may have to flash your passport but no register is taken and there is not a passenger manifest on these services (I have done one recently myself), you buy a ticket for cash like a bus or train.

So if you think about it, either up or down, this number released today is nonsense and provides no guide at all for us to work with.

It reminds me of the way the British Crime Survey, also ONS run, comes up with a figure for unreported crime which the government then combine with Police statistics to enlighten us of the fall every year(here). This is brilliant, they contact people up at random, ask if your a victim and then publish a figure as unreported crime. This is of no value; it leads only to one of two Orwellian statements;
This year there is a fall in unreported crime
This year there is an increase in unreported crime

You could not make it up, the ONS badly needs independence to enable its managers to do something useful like compile a meaningful inflation measure rather than fantasise about this nonsense.

Wednesday 4 October 2006

BBC- Just say no to monopoly

The Government is apparently split today over the increase in 'license' fee for the BBC (here) . The Beeb as usual wants more than inflation to fund it monopoly; however they claim it is to pay for analogue switch-off which the Government foisted on them (here).

Many Bloggers have commented on various issues with the BBC, see Biased BBC for the most fervent anit-beeb campaign.

However, my concern is different to many other peoples. I think the BBC produces super content and justifies being paid for it...but not subsidised. There is a better way of funding and this is called subscription or better still, general taxation.

I digress though, my main point is to see how much the BBC is being over-funded you just have to look at the private media sectors that it lays waste too. Most commercial radio companies are heading to insolvency and I would bet plenty of money that many stationd will disappear in the next few years, even some biggies like Capital are in the firing line. They can't compete on wages or with advert free radio.

ITV too has become a basket case as it cannot keep the good staff and invest in the quality of programmes that the BBC can. This is because when its viewing figures fall so does its revenue, something unstoppable in a multi-channel world. The BBC does not suffer from this as its income is guaranteed.

Even online the BBC dominates, a great service, but why is there no good ITN news site; simple, it just can't commercially compete with the BBC investment.

Channel 4 and % are also not making real headway in terms of commercial profitability. Which leaves Sky and the subscription model which is successful.

Overall then my view is that the market is clearly distorted. The huge subsidy the Governmetn gives to the Media, £2 billion a year, will never be challenged in the MSM as too many of them benefit or have benefited. This does not mean it should not be distributed more fairly or horror of horrors to the Lefties; break-up the BBC (the Beeb has even tried to profit from this themselves by outsourcing to Siemens and commercialising BBC Worldwide.)

Come on Ofcom - show us your teeth! (fat chance)

Monday 2 October 2006

Policies we need for a growth economy

George Osborne speaks tomorrow and we heard from Gordon Brown last week; but both the main parties are offering more of the same in terms of economic progress. I am at the CBI economic dinner with various economists later this week so shall put some of these to the test on them:

1. Lower business taxation - It has worked for Ireland to great effect and for the USA. Lower taxes promote growth and this more than makes up for the lower rate. No need to go mad, reduce to 25% and watch receipts from corporates grow by more than 7% over 2 years.

2. True Accounting - Make the national statisitcs office independent, allow them to define the rate of inflation and the 'basket' (see posts re inflation below). Also allow the audit office, again independently run, to decide if PFI really is off balance sheet expenditure.

3. Tax fairly- Scrap means testing and instead increase the lowest threshold for paying tax at all. This gives the most beneift to the poor and stops pointless and degrading means testing. Stop the fiscal drag of not rasing thresholds each year in line with inflation.

4. Give tax breaks that will benefit a growing economy, tax incentives for green business investment for example. Encourage R&D spending with further tax incentives to ensure we build our investment and improve productivity.

5. Scale down the DTI, remove subisidies for the military businesses and stop wasting oney on goverment interfering with business directly. Every penny wasted on the Scottsih Executive, Yorkshire Forward and their ilk is a disgrace; you may as well re-nationalise the airlines for all its economic benefit.

I hope some of these will be taken up, one day...feel free to add your own thoughts