Friday, 30 September 2011

The only way is out...

The UK has been requested by the EU Commission to pay welfare to all EU nationals, which could cost us up to £2.5bn. So much for the Coalition’s welfare reforms: as our elected government squeezes British nationals and forces the indolent into work, our unelected government obliges us to fork out for ‘benefit tourists’, who will readily find British benefits to be vastly more beneficial than those of Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Hungary... writes Cranmer over an extraordinary directive from the EU.

He points out that the Coalition's record on Europe is not encouraging... So, before you get caught up in revived hopes of the rise of Conservative Euroscepticism, please remember that we’re in a coalition with the most rabidly Europhile party in Britain, and that it has to last until 2015. Please remember that last year, a European Court judgement forced David Cameron to agree to allow prisoners to vote. Please remember that there has been no promised examination of the Working Time Directive, despite its disruptive effects on the NHS. Please remember that despite promises to decimate (at least) red tape, EU regulations keep pouring in, strangling British businesses. Please remember that the Prime Minister agreed to a 2.9 per cent increase in our EU contributions, despite promising to Parliament and the Country that there would be none. Please remember that one of his first acts was to opt in to the ‘European Investigation Order’ which obliges British police forces to act on the orders of other EU police forces, with or without primary evidence, and even for actions which are not a criminal act in the UK. Ouch.

I listened to Tim Farron, President of the Liberal Democrats, on QuestionTime last night being asked why we should remain part of the EU. He answered that next week, 26 delegates from all the different EU countries will sit round a table to discuss sheep-tagging. 30 years ago, those same people would be pointing nuclear weapons at each other.

Mr Farron should read Fukuyama. It is Liberal Democracy that has ended not just wars, but the ideological pre-cursors - fascism, communism and dictatorships - that first divided, then murdered and finally enslaved countless millions of Europeans in the twentieth century.

The EU meanwhile, pays 26 men more than £100,000 a year each to sit around a table, in a glass palace in Brussels, to decide what an entire continent should do on sheep-tagging. Important work? Democratic? No Mr Farron. It is not even necessary.

The only way is out.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Peter Oborne on Newsnight...

Unbelievable performance from Peter Oborne on Newsnight last night. Despite the biggest financial crisis of our lifetime engulfing an ill-conceived single currency causing millions of jobs and billions of Euro's in savings to be destroyed throughout Europe, this is the first time I can remember someone articulating the anger and frustration felt by ordinary people being asked to pay for the mess created by a deluded and deeply wrong political class. Well done Peter Oborne.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Ed Miliband, predators & producers...

After yesterday's mauling of Andy Burnham trying to explain Labour's new policy on moral capitalism, a germ of enlightenment today from John Denham talking to Andrew Neil. Apparently it's not about 'predators' or 'producers' - despite the explicit wording of yesterday's speech - its about reinforcing the 'right' process in business activities onto a more moral plane - whatever that may be.

This is increasingly looking like an ill thought-through initiative fast unravelling under intelligent analysis... But underneath the stupidity of politicians picking 'good' and 'bad' company's according to how much they like their business practices (isn't that how Fred Goodwin got his knighthood?) I'm increasingly reminded of David Cameron's early speeches on corporate responsibility. At the time he was talking at a smaller scale - products aimed at sexualising young girls, inappropriate placing of sweets around the till - but increasingly Cameron broadened that line to encompass the whole panoply of what has become known as The Big Society. And as Cameron deepened the debate - though few took him up - the more radical 'localism' agenda became deeply entwined.

Today at the labour party conference Yvette Cooper - ever on the Fabian side of democratic accountability - argued against elected police commissioners. Many disagree. I'm very pro-Big Society writes Labour MP Tristram Hunt, and I think it's the Labour tradition, the co-operative, mutualist tradition and I think we need to be doing more of that. And he is not wrong. Perhaps the sub-text of what Ed Miliband awkwardly spoke of yesterday, contains the germ of an idea with which both Cameron and his Coalition allies can run. After all, who could object to company's getting tax breaks for apprenticeship schemes?

Charles Moore on the Euro crisis...

What Europe faces, then, is a disaster that was predictable – and predicted – and is now unavoidable. In the process, millions will lose their jobs, an entire generation will miss the opportunities which their parents enjoyed, and blood will probably be shed. The rulers of Europe have never been so wrong since the late 1930s. Charles Moore writes on the Euro crisis...

Re-writing history...

Labour came to office in 1997 and Poland did not join the EU until 2004. Yet whereas in 1996 (the last year of John Major's Conservative government) net immigration to the UK was 40,000, by 2003 it was 150,000. It is now about 250,000. As even a cursory glance at immigration graphs will show, the beginnings of this rapid rise long predated the accession to the EU of the former Soviet bloc countries of eastern Europe. Philip Johnston shows how the left is re-writing Britain's immigration history for its own purposes...

Monday, 26 September 2011

Regressive student fees from Ed Miliband...

Centre Forum, having run the slide rule over Ed Miliband's new student fee proposals which cap them at £6000, now reckon that over half of the gain to former students goes to the richest 20% of graduates: those with lifetime earnings of over £2m in today’s money. The winners are also disproportionately old. Less than 1% of graduates will gain from this proposal within 10 years of graduation. The typical winner will have graduated 28 years earlier, and will earn £72,500 at the point at which they benefit from this proposal.

In addition, there is a significant gain to students with well-off parents who pay their fees upfront, rather than borrowing from the government. European students also benefit, as they must make repayments under the loan system but would not be liable for UK tax.

The proposal is therefore clearly regressive, being aimed to benefit the richest 20%, those with the wealthiest parents or foreign students paying no tax at all.

Back to the drawing board Mr Miliband.

Labour & Morality... pt 2

The electorate are not only not listening – they have their fingers in their ears. Labour, after suffering its second worst election defeat in history, is still being treated like a reviled ex-boyfriend. He may well protest that he did his share of the washing-up (or built some SureStart centres, schools and hospitals); what you remember is that he treated you badly. And he was also in charge of the joint finances and left you with a stonking overdraft, then he's got a hell of a lot more explaining to do. Mary Ann Sieghart writes in today's Independent.

This morning Ed Balls did the round of media breakfast shows to publicise his Liverpool conference speech. He is looking for the mantle of 'economic competence' after presiding over the greatest financial disaster this country has seen, followed by the deepest and longest recession since the 1930's. Result? An increase in public borrowing from £350 billion to £1.3 trillion that future generations will be paying back.

Mea Culpa? The banking crisis was a disaster. All over the world, banks behaved irresponsibly and regulation wasn’t tough enough. We were part of that. I’m sorry for that mistake, I deeply, deeply regret it. What we failed to see, around the world, was the scale of those risks. I’m sorry about that. So thats all right then. It wasn't Labour's incompetence - every government made the same mistakes.

Except that they didn't. Labour actually planned that future generations would pay off today's debts. It's called Private Finance Initiative or PFI. Over the 13 years of Labour's rule it was used to rack up more than £180 billion of building work whose interest costs and repayment would be paid not by today's taxpayers, but by committing future generations to taxes that repay these schemes over 30 or 50 years. Furthermore, these repayments would be at prices that the commercial banks - who took on these PFI contracts - found deeply attractive. Newspaper headlines just last week included NHS hospitals 'crippled' by PFI scheme.

There are few more things that perhaps Mr Miliband might like to apologise for before we award his party the accolade of 'competence' - or indeed moral decency. The longest sustained period of youth unemployment for decades which started to grow dramatically after EMA was introduced in 2004. I point out the introduction of EMA because that year also marked the twelfth year of consistent economic growth begun under John Major in 1992. So it couldn't have been the economy. But six years later, when Labour left office in 2010, over one million 18-25 year olds (called NEETS - not in employment, education or training) were still a devasting indictment of Labour's record.

Despite the daily spin of tabloid-chasing headlines, trumpeting the opening of each new glamorous PFI-financed school, the devastating truth was record numbers of children leaving school unable to read. Their future blighted as they became effectively excluded from better paid jobs. Indeed they would be lucky to be able to find a job at all. Over 90% of all new jobs created under thirteen years of Labour government went not to British, but foreign-born workers as more than a million East Europeans took advantage of Labour's open door immigration policy. This, despite Gordon Brown announcing 'British jobs for British workers' at his first conference as Labour Prime Minister in 2007.

As the PFI record now shows, the building spree so celebrated by Labour apologists was often used to mask the reality of devastating political decisions. To say the taxpayers money that it spent was not always done wisely would be very charitable. Tens of billions were wasted in defence procurement and on IT systems - a £12 billion NHS computer system unable to recall a patient's medical record was scrapped in the last few days. The terrible truth is that much of the extra cash ploughed into public services failed to show up in better outcomes as productivity in the public sector shrank and the pay of public sector employees oustripped the private sector whose taxes financed it.

Also in the Health service, a record level of complaints from the elderly emerged about their treatment in the NHS. Between 2005 and 2009, more than 700 elderly people died of dehydration in our hospitals. Not old age or a terminal illness, but de-hydration. That is, multiple organ failure caused by lack of water. An unbelievable indictment of clinical practice despite massive investment in hospitals, equipment and training.

Under Labour, there emerged the widest gap between rich and poor in our history – currently the left’s favourite cause - and seemingly officially encouraged. It was Peter Mandelson who described New Labour as intensely relaxed about the filthy rich... whilst spending a lot of time lunching on their yachts. Record personal debt emerged as a widespread and serious issue as Labour set up not only the most deregulated banking system on earth, but a seemingly useless tripartite financial regulatory regime that allowed the banks to nearly destroy our economy.

There is of course a great deal more - the doubling of council tax, the scrapping of the 10p tax rate which hit only the poorest, a doubling of alcohol-related deaths after the introduction of 24-hour drinking, 8 million people totally dependent upon state handouts despite a burgeoning black economy, the most regressive ‘flat tax’ in history paid equally by people earning £10 or £10 million - euphemistically called ‘the congestion charge’ and a war so controversial that the former party leader can’t even attend his own book signings.

An apology Mr Miliband, would be a start. But your party is still a long way from being described as either competent or morally decent.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Democratising the police: a left perspective...

A real opportunity exists for the centre-left to develop and implement across large swathes of the country a progressive policy on crime, policing and disorder - and to make Police Commissioners a showcase for a better politics of crime and policing. Done well, this reform could do a great deal to build public trust in politics and might even become a much needed instance of the 'new politics' that the Coalition is otherwise failing to deliver writes Ian Loader and Rick Muir in todays Newstatesman.

Lawson on the Eurozone...

The people who are responsible for promoting the Eurozone venture in the first place should be ashamed of themselves. They are the architects of the most irresponsible political initiative that I can recall... Lord Lawson talking on Radio 4 Today program.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Robin Sharp on Ed Balls...

I once attended a charity function at Portcullis House and found myself enmeshed with Labour MPs - who were all really nice and caring people for whom I have the greatest respect. The subject of Ed Balls came up. They all turned green and I think would have used the term "toxic" had it been in the conversational lexicon in the moment.

Ed Balls is like Gordon Brown. Unlikeable, aggressive and toxic - but suited to climb within a political party filled with luuvies.

In a strange way Ed Balls is Ed Milliband's secret weapon. When he fails to make an impact on the economy - and he will fail because there will be a huge shock to the EU and US economy that is upon us as a result of his policies of high debt - then Ed can very publicly sack him knowing full well Ed Balls has absolutely NO support on the back benches. Ed Milliband will be cheered privately when he publicly sticks the knife into Ed Balls. It will mark the end of an era of toxic spinning started by Blair and Campbell. It will be a cathartic moment and a new start. Once out of power Ed Balls is nothing. His political climbing skills will make him an outcast with all the nice Labour back bench MPs. Ed Milliband really is the alter ego that Gordon tried to portray but never was. Ed Balls is Gordons toxic heart that we all need anaesthetic to deal with.

Robin Sharp commenting on Jerry Hayes' piece for Dale & Co.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Down and Out in London 2011...

A truly revealing piece from Beneath The Wig showing the terrifying cycle between street homelessness and re-offending:

Reoffending gets them a warm, safe, comfortable prison.  It gets them a bed and a roof over their heads, three meals a day and more often than not, to see their old buddies.  The friendly faces of prison officers they have seen a hundred times before, the routine and the absolute surrender of their own fate for a few weeks or months at a time until they are reluctantly turfed back out onto the streets and into the cycle of drug abuse and fighting for somewhere to sleep and food to eat all over again.

Well worth reading.

Why we need to support Israel...

The following letter was written to the Edinburgh University Student Association following their vote to boycott Israel and all Israeli goods because it is an 'apartheid regime'. Dr Denis MacEoin (a non-Jew) is an expert in Middle Eastern affairs. He is senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly, and runs his own blog 'A Liberal Defence of Israel'. With thanks to Archbishop Cranmer.

May I be permitted to say a few words to members of the EUSA? I am an Edinburgh graduate (MA 1975) who studied Persian, Arabic and Islamic History in Buccleuch Place under William Montgomery Watt and Laurence Elwell Sutton, two of Britain’s great Middle East experts in their day. I later went on to do a PhD at Cambridge and to teach Arabic and Islamic Studies at Newcastle University. Naturally, I am the author of several books and hundreds of articles in this field.

I say all that to show that I am well informed in Middle Eastern affairs and that, for that reason, I am shocked and disheartened by the EUSA motion and vote. I am shocked for a simple reason: there is not and has never been a system of apartheid in Israel. That is not my opinion, that is fact that can be tested against reality by any Edinburgh student, should he or she choose to visit Israel to see for themselves.

Let me spell this out, since I have the impression that those members of EUSA who voted for this motion are absolutely clueless in matters concerning Israel, and that they are, in all likelihood, the victims of extremely biased propaganda coming from the anti-Israel lobby. Being anti-Israel is not in itself objectionable. But I’m not talking about ordinary criticism of Israel. I’m speaking of a hatred that permits itself no boundaries in the lies and myths it pours out. Thus, Israel is repeatedly referred to as a ‘Nazi’ state. In what sense is this true, even as a metaphor? Where are the Israeli concentration camps? The einzatsgruppen? The SS? The Nüremberg Laws? The Final Solution? None of these things nor anything remotely resembling them exists in Israel, precisely because the Jews, more than anyone on earth, understand what Nazism stood for. It is claimed that there has been an Israeli Holocaust in Gaza (or elsewhere). Where? When? No honest historian would treat that claim with anything but the contempt it deserves. But calling Jews Nazis and saying they have committed a Holocaust is as basic a way to subvert historical fact as anything I can think of.

Likewise apartheid. For apartheid to exist, there would have to be a situation that closely resembled things in South Africa under the apartheid regime. Unfortunately for those who believe this, a weekend in any part of Israel would be enough to show how ridiculous the claim is. That a body of university students actually fell for this and voted on it is a sad comment on the state of modern education. The most obvious focus for apartheid would be the country’s 20% Arab population. Under Israeli law, Arab Israelis have exactly the same rights as Jews or anyone else; Muslims have the same rights as Jews or Christians; Baha’is, severely persecuted in Iran, flourish in Israel, where they have their world centre; Ahmadi Muslims, severely persecuted in Pakistan and elsewhere, are kept safe by Israel; the holy places of all religions are protected under a specific Israeli law. Arabs form 20% of the university population (an exact echo of their percentage in the general population). In Iran, the Baha’is (the largest religious minority) are forbidden to study in any university or to run their own universities: why aren’t your members boycotting Iran?

Arabs in Israel can go anywhere they want, unlike blacks in apartheid South Africa. They use public transport, they eat in restaurants, they go to swimming pools, they use libraries, they go to cinemas alongside Jews – something no blacks could do in South Africa. Israeli hospitals not only treat Jews and Arabs, they also treat Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank. On the same wards, in the same operating theatres.

In Israel, women have the same rights as men: there is no gender apartheid. Gay men and women face no restrictions, and Palestinian gays often escape into Israel, knowing they may be killed at home. It seems bizarre to me that LGBT groups call for a boycott of Israel and say nothing about countries like Iran, where gay men are hanged or stoned to death. That illustrates a mindset that beggars belief. Intelligent students thinking it’s better to be silent about regimes that kill gay people, but good to condemn the only country in the Middle East that rescues and protects gay people. Is that supposed to be a sick joke?

University is supposed to be about learning to use your brain, to think rationally, to examine evidence, to reach conclusions based on solid evidence, to compare sources, to weigh up one view against one or more others. If the best Edinburgh can now produce are students who have no idea how to do any of these things, then the future is bleak. I do not object to well documented criticism of Israel. I do object when supposedly intelligent people single the Jewish state out above states that are horrific in their treatment of their populations. We are going through the biggest upheaval in the Middle East since the 7th and 8th centuries, and it’s clear that Arabs and Iranians are rebelling against terrifying regimes that fight back by killing their own citizens. Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs alike, do not rebel (though they are free to protest). Yet Edinburgh students mount no demonstrations and call for no boycotts against Libya, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Iran. They prefer to make false accusations against one of the world’s freest countries, the only country in the Middle East that has taken in Darfur refugees, the only country in the Middle East that gives refuge to gay men and women, the only country in the Middle East that protects the Baha’is... Need I go on? The imbalance is perceptible, and it sheds no credit on anyone who voted for this boycott.

I ask you to show some common sense. Get information from the Israeli embassy. Ask for some speakers. Listen to more than one side. Do not make your minds up until you have given a fair hearing to both parties. You have a duty to your students, and that is to protect them from one-sided argument. They are not at university to be propagandized. And they are certainly not there to be tricked into anti-Semitism by punishing one country among all the countries of the world, which happens to be the only Jewish state. If there had been a single Jewish state in the 1930s (which, sadly, there was not), don’t you think Adolf Hitler would have decided to boycott it? Of course he would, and he would not have stopped there. Your generation has a duty to ensure that the perennial racism of anti-Semitism never sets down roots among you. Today, however, there are clear signs that it has done so and is putting down more. You have a chance to avert a very great evil, simply by using reason and a sense of fair play. Please tell me that this makes sense to you. I have given you some of the evidence. It’s up to you to find out more.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Denis MacEoin