Thursday, 28 February 2013

Half Time

I am travelling tomorrow to that great little city, York. Lady Idle and I are off (via landed mates in the Pennines, natch) to play the proud parents at York university, watching the elder Miss Idle star in an Ayckbourn comedy, drinking and eating well, having a shufti at the National Railway Museum (with a friend who just loves his STEAM), and generally chillaxing, if that is a concept known to staid Yorkshire folk.

But it meant that I ran the risk of leaving this now-somewhat-regular blog without a new post for nearly a week. I was stumped, frankly, with no result from Eastleigh to dissect and no other earth shattering stories to comment upon. I thought of giving you a banker's take on the bonus cap, but decided to leave that to the estimable, unbiased Dan Hannan.

Given that we are now in the second half of this government, I went back to May 2010 and re-read a blogpost or two from my splendid and widely-read organ. Remember how long this wretched coalition took to form? It went on for what seemed like weeks. We all had our ha'penny worth on the rights and wrongs of it. I suggested that we would end up with:

"a nice, consensual, liberal/social democrat Europhile Big Government, busying itself with the minutiae of our lives and charging us a hefty fee for doing so. Just like those in Western Europe. You know the ones – that have had very high structural unemployment for decades, sclerotic growth, that have porous borders, that appease rather than confront global miscreants, that dislike and distrust the Great Satan America, that are anti-semitic. Hey, they are so alike, they are pursuing political union, the practice of which is evident – an overbearing and only semi-accountable political elite bullying and cajoling bovine electorates into Big Government, Big Regulation, Big Taxation. The sort of thing a ‘Liberal Democrat’ just loves."

I fear that Idle's ball, made of the finest crystal, was pretty much bang on; perhaps the miscreants have been tackled more robustly, and perhaps our employment numbers held up surprisingly well. As for the rest: bugger.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Pants on Fire? Or Just a Wisp of Smoke From the Trouser Pocket?

Politicians are expected to lie, or at least to be as disingenuous as they can be. As far as the media are concerned, the lie is only really interesting if it relates to something base and simple (sex, death, perjury) rather than something too big and complex (Europe, taxation, policy). And what they REALLY like is shiftiness, where the lie/story/explanation changes with each lunchtime or evening news.

This is where Cleggy has come undone. The fact that a monstrously obese and unpleasant man like Rennard should be trying to force himself on a few vapid LibDem wimmin was not in itself of great interest (do you remember it from 2008? Or from 2010 when a newspaper tried to reprise it? No, because it wasn’t taken up as a story by the rest of the media). But what Cleggy knew, when he knew it, what he did about it – this becomes a Westminster All The President’s Men. And, as in ATPM, the excitement of a cover up is just too good to be true. It is helped, splendidly, by the fact that all the LibDem top table hate each other. There will be a Deepthroat, for sure.

So, where are you on Clegg? Has he indulged in a bare faced lie? Should it matter? Should we respect the line between normal obfuscation/disingenuity/mis-speaking on the one hand, and clear dishonesty on the other? Given that these were all ghastly LibDems together, should it be treated as victimless?

These wretched incompetents must be held to account somehow. It would improve my week if Eastleigh turned Blue and Clegg turned white, with fear.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Theology Corner

This 85 year old man devoted his life to the church and says he is now too weak to continue.

This 86 year old man devoted his life to porn and has just married a 26 year old.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

The World's Worst Strategist
Osborne to spend valuable pre-budget time at Chequers discussing electoral strategy.

Peter Oborne (not a dyslexic relation of the Chancellor) in the Telegraph rightly criticises his decision. What he doesn't say, but should, is that George Osborne is a shit strategist. A rubbish strategist. Almost anyone else would be better. Just look at the crime sheet:

1.      Decided not to oppose Brown's kamikaze economic policy in 2007, and signed up to Labour's spending plans 2008-2011.
2.      Had to reverse this idiotic decision within weeks when Northern Wreck hit the buffers.
3.      Joint Moderniser in Chief of the Conservatives, which not only makes the party look as though its apologising for its traditionally Conservative ideology, but pisses off its own voter base without changing the voting habits of the people it is aimed at.
4.      Missed the open goal of the 2010 election. Brown, a revolting individual, had bankrupted the country. He enjoyed almost no personal popular support. The borders were wide open, the country was at war, our welfare state had become the most abused and expensive of all government commitments. New Labour had turned out to be Same Old Labour.
Osborne should be barred from Chequers this weekend. Yes, he should be working on a crucial budget (remember last year’s? A total fuckup. He should be taking a bit more care this time). But mainly, because he is the world’s worst political strategist. More George Custer than George Osborne.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013


What are we to make of the fact that, a week from now, there is a 61% probability of the Liberals holding on to Eastleigh, and only a 28% possibility of the Tories winning it? What does it tell us about the national polls, the residents of Eastleigh, the local candidates?

Huhne received 46.5% of the vote in 2010, and the Tory candidate (standing again) got 39.3%.  The swing required for the Tories is a derisory 4%, and on the face of it, they would expect to get it. Huhne was a high-profile incumbent who disgraced himself and embarrassed the constituency who had trusted him. The new LibDem candidate doesn’t have the advantage of incumbent status, but does have the smelly legacy of Huhne’s dishonesty and arrogance. 

The Tory candidate is lower middle class, local, community-minded and speaks her mind on issues that encourage the Tory vote to mobilise itself – immigration, for instance (UKIP got 2,000 votes in 2010). She does not appear to be a loony. If turnout stays the same as 2010, she needs 2,000 out of the 25,000 who voted Huhne. The national polls tell us that the LibDem vote has halved, yet they seem odds-on to retain Eastleigh. What is going on?

Eastleigh, it is true, marches to the west with a Labour seat in Southampton (itself a Lab/Con marginal), but in every other direction they don’t count the Tory vote so much as weigh it. What makes Eastleigh a Liberal redoubt? Extraordinary to say, but Huhne must somehow have charmed the locals. For some reason, the residents of Chandler’s Ford, Botley and even, dammit, the Hamble don’t dig the Tories. It is inexplicable, really. OK, we know that funny Liberal enclaves manage to hold on for generations – Lewes, Cheltenham, Clement Freud’s Isle of Ely spring to mind – but they have done so because the MP wins trust and doesn’t humiliate his wife, his family, himself. Huhne has behaved appallingly, was on the left of his party, was a high priest of the ludicrous and dangerous Climate Change Religion, yet the LibDem vote is holding steady and may even increase. Are they merely contrarians?

I wish I could shine some light on this. I lived as a child for a couple of years on the northern boundary of this constituency. OK, that was the late 60s and times have changed. But the Itchen still flows southward, the trout thrive, the constituency is chocker with retired folk, the Hamble remains crammed with pleasurecraft.

My guess is this: the Conservative Party at grassroots is a shadow of its former self. Its voice no longer heard by the leadership, it cannot replace the volunteers and members who die or chuck the towel in each year. No longer synonymous with The Royal British Legion, the Golf Club, the Rotarians, the party has no effective organisational clout within this (or any) constituency.

They say that Cameron out-polls his party. Well, it’s time you proved it, Dave. Once you have finished in India, fly into Southampton Airport (I still call it Eastleigh out of habit), and remind the denizens that sound money, sound borders, liberty and aspiration exist only, amongst the larger parties, with The Conservatives. If you can’t win Eastleigh, you certainly can’t win a general election.

Evidently Tory HQ thinks their candidate IS a loony. They are gagging her and hoping for a miracle.Quentin Letts, on the other hand, is in favour: "Boris was campaigning with the Tories’ candidate Maria Hutchings, a local mum who has a reputation for ‘plain speaking’. That is Westminster-speak for ‘gaffe-prone’, although at Westminster it’s a ‘gaffe’ if you say anything remotely right-wing. Mrs Hutchings (Eurosceptic, tough on benefits, crime, etc) seems thoroughly sensible to me".

Monday, 18 February 2013


Here is a quite brilliant letter to the Telegraph today, on the subject (roughly) of dodgy food:


The meat scandal demonstrates that all supermarkets should be nationalised. Only a National Food Service (NFS), can deliver the quality of food the British people are entitled to expect.

Too much expensive food is eaten by a small part of the population while many go without. This inequality needs to be a thing of the past, with regional Strategic Food Authorities and local commissioning groups having total control over the supply of food.

What food is needed, and how much, could be determined by a quango, the National Institute for Food Excellence, Nife.

Costs could be saved by closing down surplus supermarkets and rationalising delivery to them. For example, weekly bread deliveries would clearly save money.

In just a few years this food service would be the envy of the world.

David James
Colby, Isle of Man

Friday, 15 February 2013

It's Not Just Dave

When the chairman of the 1922 Committee writes an op-ed piece giving the Chancellor some handy hints just a month ahead of the budget, you know he's not doing so because he knows the Chancellor has already taken the advice; that's a complete no-no. Chancellors must be allowed by their own backbench chairmen to take the credit for tax cuts and other good ideas.

So Brady thinks that Osborne needs the advice. So do I, but I can't think for a moment he'll take it, as he has always belittled 'unfunded tax cuts', as though Art Laffer had never existed, let alone proved the theory.

I think that the Tories are quite close to losing faith with Osborne. The same, one supposes, was true of Cameron, until with one great bound, he was free. But whereas Dave had the luxury of promising an EU referendum after an election he is unlikely to win, George has the pressing problem of an economy which must be kick-started NOW. It seems to me to be a self-evident truth that lower taxes for the lower and middle classes puts more discretionary spending pounds in pockets. If spent, GDP rises, as do tax revenues. To deny this is to deny the British electorate the fundamental choice that they require, between the Labour way of running an economy, and a Conservative way.

At the moment, Osborne is outflanked even by the ludicrous Ed Balls, who wants an immediate VAT rate cut. (Ignore the 10p Band nonsense - much better to raise the tax free threshold, which the Coalition is at least doing).

Cameron, like Blair before him, appears not to have much of a grip of economics (though his instincts seem broadly sound). Osborne therefore has the run of the economy, with Danny Alexander sitting upon his shoulder and Vince Cable hissing some none-too-subtle stage whisper prompts from the wings.

The Tory backbenchers have little choice but to stay subdued on Dave's leadership now that the European question is more or less addressed. But they would have no qualms bringing the pusillanimous Chancellor down, if necessary. This was Brady marking Osborne's card.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Ed Gives Birth

So Ed has a policy at last. It had the gestation period of an African Elephant, but it’s a bouncing baby Wealth Tax! Congratulations!

No great surprise, I suppose. Given that both the Libs and the Reds are now signed up to this idea, it’s going to happen, I'm afraid. Dave and George cannot win an election without fair boundaries and a decent economy; we know they won’t have the former and it is unlikely, given current form, they will have the latter.

Wealth Taxes are iniquitous, but populist. This one is pitched in such a way as to affect ‘only’ the stinking rich. Given that a five bedroom terraced house in the right part of Clapham is valued at £2m+, and may be lived in by a retired couple on a fixed income who are asset rich but cash poor, the victims may be neither stinking nor rich, unless they like the idea of equity release schemes in their 70s and 80s. If the house is home to professional folk and their family, they are almost certainly paying over 60% of their income in tax already.

This confirms what we all knew, that the additional rate of tax, first at 50% and about to be 45%, doesn’t bring in enough money and results in tens of thousands more people consulting their accountants about avoidance, who otherwise wouldn’t have done. Brown knew it wouldn’t work when he designed it to go off like a time bomb after an election that he was bound to lose. It remains a strategic error of huge proportions that the Tories did not insist on defusing the bomb on Day 1 of the Coalition; we must suppose that the idiotic Vince Cable was the main obstruction.

Once you have a Wealth Tax, it is hard to get rid of it. Probably, it only gets chucked out after the country goes so far downhill that radical change is supported by the electorate (see Thatcher, 1979-83). So this one will probably be around from 2015 when Prime Minister Miliband takes over, until 2025, when Prime Minister Brutus Balls gets chucked out by the electorate and is forced to leave the country with his wife and family under cover of darkness. By then, just imagine what a fetid state the country will be in. I imagine it will be unrecognisable, an increasingly feckless and uneducated British underclass joined by huge numbers of Eastern Europeans and our Islamic friends. It will be defined no longer by the British Character, but instead by a nightmare Tower of Babel-meets-Bedlam-meets-the Cafeteria of the UN.

It is unlikely that once this country gets used to food stamps, cradle-to-grave welfare entitlements and a state that takes up 75% of GDP, that it will vote to give them up – at least until we become an Albania. By this stage, the Wealth Tax will, mutatis mutandis, be a Property Tax, affecting half the population.

All you need for enlightened capitalism to work is to Set The People Free. But when the people allow economic warfare to be waged on job- and wealth-creation, and vote themselves an income they have not earned, they give up their freedoms and imprison themselves. They won’t like it when they are told this, but eventually they will know it to be true.