Monday, 30 January 2006
IN ENGLAND an edict has gone out to shoot them by the hundred thousand.Yeah! That'll show 'em.
And the result:
Reds have gone from England except in a handful of redoubtsIt must be the Cameron effect.
But no such luck for us:
...in Scotland, where about 75 per cent of Britain's surviving 160,000 reds are thought to liveAye, Princes Street is fair hoaching with Guardian readers.
Apparently we saw:
the first appearance of reds in Britain about 10,000 years agoWhere was Adam Smith when we needed him?
But now it gets confusing:
The red hordes of the late 1800s were proof that nothing is certain in nature, because the species had been in serious danger of disappearing at the end of the 18th centuryHaven't they got their centuries a bit mixed up? I suppose the Scotsman writers are still hung over.
But this is surely correct:
Reds recovered and spread ... becoming a pest by the start of 20th centuryHere's some surprising news:
Although reds ... are found across Europe and Asia, they are threatened only in Britain and to a small extent, so far, in ItalyI knew that Berlusconi was a sound chap.
But we're still going to see plenty of them in their natural Scottish habitat:
There is a good chance of maintaining reds in Scotland by co-operationAnd:
What we hope to do is get through the next few difficult years - there's no risk of reds becoming extinct, but they are under serious pressureNeedless to say, the politicians are on to this:
A Scottish Executive spokeswoman said: The key objective is to maintain areas where reds thrive and extend them if possible. Long-term habitat provision is the most successful route we can takeSo no threat to Drumchapel or Pilton then.
This is probably all for the good:
the Executive should be doing more sooner to preserve reds. But she says a gradual approach will work.Gradualism: it's the British way.
The full story is reported here.
Sunday, 29 January 2006
Stuart Randall appalled by Scottish Leadership and posturing on tolls
Councillor Stuart Randall has resigned from the Conservative candidates’ list and so will not stand in 2007 for any level of Government. He considers his Council and Parliamentary careers at an end, but will serve out his current term of office on Fife Council, where he is Conservative Group Leader. He will stand down as Treasurer of the Scottish Conservative Councillors’ Association at the forthcoming AGM, where he will present the accounts for last year.
Cllr Randall stood against Gordon Brown in 2001 (Dunfermline East) and 2005 (Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath) and also fought his local Dunfermline East seat against Helen Eadie in 2003. He is the elected member for Dalgety Bay East and the only Tory councillor in west Fife. Before he was elected in 1999, there were no Conservatives on Fife Council at all.
Cllr Randall has announced his retirement from front line politics in order that he can speak freely regarding what he sees as his party’s poor management and a “policy vacuum”. In particular, he wishes to stand up for the interests of his constituents over Forth Road Bridge tolls and the need for a second road bridge.
In November, Cllr Randall’s status was renewed as an approved parliamentary candidate with authority to run for by-elections and key seats. However, Cllr Randall was kept off the Dunfermline & West Fife by-election shortlist, for which he was the local front runner, in order to promote a previously inactive female candidate from outside west Fife. Cllr Randall believes moves are also now afoot within the party to skew the Holyrood regional ranking arrangements. This will unjustly favour certain candidates and he wishes to stand up for the hardworking activists who will be disadvantaged by such a step.
Cllr Randall says:
“To many outsiders it may seem as if this decision has come suddenly out of the blue. But to anyone who has followed Scottish politics over the last couple of years, they will know that my frustration and disenchantment with the Scottish leadership has been growing inexorably over a long period of time. I have tried very hard behind the scenes to get the party to wake up and reform without success. The party has been taken over by an incompetent clique, who can’t see past the next headline, and there seems to be no way for the grassroots to regain control. Decision after decision has been botched and wherever one scratches the surface, the whole edifice of the party is crumbling, yet no-one seems to really care. Image is everything. There is a vacuum at the heart of Scottish Conservative policy and nobody seems to be responsible for where the party is heading. We need a strategy and we need it urgently, for if we don’t know where we are going, how do we know which is the right direction?
“The final straw came last week when the party announced its stance on the future of the Forth Road Bridge and the tolling regime. My ward is just a couple of miles from the north end of the bridge, so it affects my constituents greatly. It’s also the biggest issue affecting the whole of Fife at the moment, and yet I only found out about the new policy when I saw it in the local newspaper and a by-election flyer. And I’m the Leader of the Tory Group on Fife Council! Treating senior party activists in that way cannot be acceptable in any competent, democratic party. Local government is far too important for that.
“I was appalled to see Annabel Goldie, who has been selected for West Renfrewshire, posing on the Forth Road Bridge and singing the praises of tolling. This is not because I’m against tolls in principle, I’ve been very straight with people about that, it’s because I know she is simultaneously pushing for the abolition of the Erskine Bridge tolls back home. Why should my constituents be treated any differently from hers? Tolling can only be acceptable as a Scotland-wide strategy, as it is in England and Wales and I won’t stand by silently while my constituents are treated unfairly. What’s good enough for Skye and Erskine is good enough for Fife. It’s either tolls for every expensive long-span bridge or tolls for none.
“I have been pressing for a consistent right-of-centre policy on this matter for years, but it’s been like talking to a brick wall. No-one will take us seriously as a tax cutting party if we keep telling people that everything, including exorbitantly expensive bridges, can be provided and maintained by the Executive free at the point of use. Government should be concentrating on health, education and pensions not pretending it can provide 21st century infrastructure on time and on budget. The state sector has a terrible track record on infrastructure, precisely because this kind of seedy politics gets in the way. Just look at the gaps in our motorway network and see how long they’ve remained unresolved. No wonder no-one wants to manufacture in Scotland anymore. We pay high taxes, but still get poor transport links.
“The Conservative Party should be offering a distinct alternative to the spin and hypocrisy of the other parties, but unfortunately, we’ve been all over the place. Last May, Ted Brocklebank, who is in the party’s policy cabinet, stood up at Holyrood and called for all tolls to be abolished. He was shooting from the lip and had no proposal or budget to maintain the existing bridges, let alone replace them. He was simply making up policy on the hop for short-term populist reasons and it caused me a lot of trouble in my west Fife ward. People, understandably, thought he was pronouncing Conservative Party policy and that he was serious about this.
“Then, late last year, it was the turn of David Davidson, our Transport spokesman, no less. He stood up in Parliament and called for a new bridge with a freight railway line. He said nothing about how this would be paid for or whether motorists would end up paying through the nose for train passengers to cross the bridge for free. It was not in the Tory budget. Freight railway lines need a very stiff, heavy bridge and so add massively to the cost, but the Tory Transport spokesman didn’t seem to have considered this at all. There was no costing, consultation, or justification. If there had been he would have known that we have an under-used Forth Bridge and the whole point of the new Kincardine – Alloa rail link is to free up capacity on that.
“I’m pleased to say that both Ted’s and David’s proposals have now been dropped, but not before they caused huge embarrassment to the party. I don’t want to see the Conservatives pushing for expensive toys, like bullet trains, airport tunnels and tram tracks, in the way the spendthrift socialists do. Scotland needs a bit of common sense at Holyrood, not more of the same. Most MSPs behave like children in a sweet shop, presumably because they don’t have to go through the pain of raising the taxes they spend so liberally, but Tory MSPs should be different.
“It is ironic that, here I am standing down, when the idea of using private money and tolls to get new bridges built quickly is pretty much what I have been pushing for all along. But the chance to outflank the opposition with cast iron commitments to major Scotland-wide roads investment is now long gone. You cannot have a policy that gives the west of Scotland ‘free’ bridges at taxpayers’ expense and the east of Scotland endless increases in tolls. It looks like a short term patch up job, just to get the party through the by-election. If the policy had been finalised before the Skye bridge debacle, and if it had been applied consistently across Scotland, as I wanted, then we could have seized the moral high ground. But now it looks short term and shoddy. I don’t feel vindicated, I just feel sad.
“It’s also ironic that I am leaving front line politics at the very time when David Cameron, the UK leader, is pushing for my kind of politics south of the border. I was working in the council estates, promoting compassionate conservatism and advancing the cause of climate change long before David Cameron was even an MP.
“The poor judgement at the top of the Scottish party did not start recently. Twelve months ago we lost a disastrous general election, winning only one seat and with our share of the vote down to a measly 15%. And this despite the fact that the party made significant gains in both England and Wales. Of course, the party leadership spun this in public as some great success, as any politician would. The trouble is they have swallowed their own propaganda and have been feeding the same hopelessly complacent line to their troops, behind the scenes. It’s as if the party leadership stand in a closed circle with each patting the next person on the back.
“I have served the Scottish Conservatives, to the best of my ability, for almost eight years, in the front line. I’ve taken flak for just about everything and it’s been very difficult sticking at it through probably the darkest years in the party’s history. Others dropped out when times got hard, but I stuck at it, suspended my business and career, and made whatever personal sacrifices were necessary to keep the Tory torch burning in west Fife, a hard Labour area. I’ve never expected special treatment in return, but I certainly expected a fair crack at the whip, to be treated with integrity and to be consulted when serious decisions affect my patch.
“I’m not cancelling my membership or abandoning my ward, which I won under the Conservative flag. I still love the Scottish Conservative Party and the principles for which it stands. The problem is, I don’t recognise those principles among the current leadership.
“It’ll truly hurt to walk away next year and not take part in the campaigns. But I have no choice but to speak out, because I fear for the party’s future while they are in control.”
(UPDATE: Stuart Randall tells me that one of the main local papers has received lots of election material from the other parties but nothing from the Conservatives.)
Good news, I thought. Lots of Lanarkshire entrepreneurs generating affordable businesses. But hang on a moment: what's an "affordable" business? Is it one that you buy down at the Co-op? Are we talking of companies that can be purchased by people "in the community"? Sadly, no. Remember that Lanarkshire is the heartland of the "Labour Community", and that means money, money, money. Your money:
A final evaluation report of the Lanarkshire Enterprise Zone project suggests it cost much less in taxpayers’ cash per job created than any other similar project.Aha! The taxpayer. And how much less is this costing, you may ask?
The report showed that the cost per job of the net additional jobs created was £14,609, compared to £21,485 which is the UK average, according to the 1995 evaluation.But note that one reason for previous economic problems in Lanarkshire was this:
A high degree of reliance on an inward investment market which subsequently collapsed.Many, many, foreign-owned factories were given taxpayers' cash to come to Lanarkshire and other parts of Silicon Glen and now they're leaving for cheaper or more subsidised pastures. It's beginning to dawn on most of us that imported businesses built on subsidies don't last. So, tell me, why doesn't this logic apply to domestic businesses, even "affordable" ones? I think that it does. So instead of spending £14,609 a go to create jobs that probably won't last, why not simply make Lanarkshire a vast tax-and-regulation-free enterprise zone?
The figures mean that while taxpayers spend £5,160 on the average child's education annually, £1,700 is swallowed up by local government.Of course, as a good libertarian, I don't believe that the state (OK, the taxpayer) should be funding anyone's education, but one must wonder why so few politicians advocate education vouchers and the closure of government schools.
Actually, we don't need to wonder:
But Keir Bloomer, chief executive of Clackmananshire (sic) council, said: "It is not clear to me that devolving more money to schools, which traditionally have been the most conservative part of the education system, is going to get the change that we want. I would start by querying the assumption that we should be devolving more and more."That sums up things perfectly: It's not what parents want or children need that matters, it's what "we", in the political class, want. "Devolve" the money back to its rightful owners and we'll find out quickly enough what's wanted.
Wednesday, 25 January 2006
Stuart Randall - leader of the Fife Tories and a councillor in nearby Dalgety Bay - is incandescent at having been left off the shortlist drawn up by the Scottish Tories, describing the procedure as "shabby" and "insulting the intelligence of the voters".Being leader of the Fife Conservatives isn't a glamorous job - it's not like being Tory leader in Kensington and Chelsea. Of the 78 councillors in Fife, two are Conservatives. Stuart Randall is the leader, and the other one isn't.
Thanks to his hard work over the years, Mr Randall was selected to fight the Westminster seat of Dunfermline East in the general election of 2001. His Labour opponent was a Mr Gordon Brown. In the 2005 election Mr Randall was selected to contest the new constituency of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath. Again, his target was Mr Brown.
Now it seems to me that the Tories should owe a bit of loyalty to the person whom they chose to fight two consecutive general elections against the man expected to be the next prime minister. One would have thought that Mr Randall would have been on the shortlist for Conservative candidate in the forthcoming by-election in Dunfermline. Indeed, one would have thought that Mr Randall would have had a very good chance of getting the nomination. But Stuart Randall was "far too old and middle-aged to fit the bill". (He was born in 1962.)
Local Tories aren't amused:
Many party members boycotted the selection meeting, as they were 'appalled' at the way things had been handled, the councillor added.My Tory sources tell me that the anger goes well beyond Fife. Why should folk work hard for a party just to be stabbed in the back? David Cameron may be the darling of the London media but he is in the process of pissing off his party's natural supporters. Drinkin the blude-reid wine will only get them so far.
'It's been a shabby arrangement. There were three prospective candidates speaking to an audience of five. I've spent almost all day answering Emails and phone calls from people appalled by what has happened.
…tea, which had become a household staple in the Britain of the eighteenth century, but attracted import duties averaging 119 percent.The plan:
He reduced the average duty to 25 percent.The outcome:
In time, the huge reduction in smuggling which followed would in any case bring an increase in revenue.Doesn't this sound rather like the Laffer Curve that I mentioned on Monday? Of course, I'm not one to welcome more money for the state - its income should be zero or pretty damned close - but if tax cutting were to result in the state getting a rising amount but a smaller share of our money one might think a Conservative party would be interested in such an outcome. But no, tax cutting's off the Tory agenda.
By the way, David Cameron may have come across the author of the words quoted above: his name is William Hague.
Monday, 23 January 2006
I must confess that I don't really know if Mr Cameron's endless Blairite pronouncements are really a clever con trick to be revealed as such when he becomes prime minister, but if I were a betting man I'd say no. Nevertheless, one would have thought that the Tories might just make the odd reference to the Laffer Curve or the debate on flat taxes. I don't imagine for a moment that the Conservative party is about to point out that all taxation is immoral, but one does despair when reading this:
... he was set to make plain that sorting out the public finances must take priority over reducing taxes.The public finances will never be "sorted" until there's a massive cut in expenditure.
Friday, 20 January 2006
The insanity of consumption bothers me. Talk about the opiate of the masses. It ain't religion any more. It's stuff. Why don't governments stop people from making crap?One sympathises - It's not as if Emma can afford a lot of "stuff":
In an article named What Stars are Really Worth, Entertainment Weekly (4/12/96) had this to say about Em:Appropriately, Emma's daughter has been given the decidedly unstuffy name of Gaia Romilly. How very Nu Conservative. But no, for the NuCons love the NHS and it seems that Gaia made her very first appearance on the distinctly private stage of the Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth in Blairite London NW8.
Emma Thompson (Makes art-house movies seem like fun)
Intangible Worth (on a scale of 0-25)= 18
Average Domestic Gross In Millions= 26
Average Foreign Gross In Millions= 44
Recent Salary/Asking Price= 3
Should Earn= 6.2
Social etiquette in London must be so confusing these days.
My favourite item was this:
One advertisement for the Inland Revenue had to be remade because Gordon Brown didn't like the dog: cost £20,000.
Ms Sturgeon also revealed that the working title of the SNP's manifesto for the 2007 Scottish parliament elections is "A Culture of Independence".Peter MacMahon rightly noted that there's a wee bit of a contradiction here: the SNP's activists are overwhelmingly anti-individualist.
The Nationalists would be arguing that their political aim of independence for Scotland is replicated in their policy approach. Their aspiration for Scottish independence would be matched by an aspiration for "personal and individual independence", Ms Sturgeon said.
Nicola Sturgeon responded a few days later and insisted that her party favours personal as well as national independence.
But her letter shows that the SNP just doesn't get it:
For example, we want to get rid of student loans and tuition fees so that young graduates do not start their working lives weighed down by debt.And that's an example of personal independence! No, it's dependence. Someone else, including non-graduates, will have to pay.
first-time buyers' grants to help young people get a foot on the housing ladderAnother subsidy from the taxpayer.
Next, she wants:
a small business charter to encourage and reward enterprise.Business doesn't need a politician's "charter"; it needs a politician's absence.
I'm afraid that the SNP has a very long way to go before it even begins to understand what personal independence really means.
Monday, 16 January 2006
The advert, publicising a hotline to report self-employed people who do not pay their taxes, depicts a plumber hiding under a kitchen sink.The FSB states that:
We find it particularly offensive that the implication is that all self-employed people do not pay their taxes."I share their anger, but wouldn't it be even better if the FSB were to point out that their tormentors don't pay any taxes themselves?
Even more astounding is this news in today's Scotsman:
Yesterday, the Swiss (sic) responded to the revelations by stressing that he remains "100 per cent committed" to England.Swiss? You could have fooled me: I never knew they were so raunchy.
Sunday, 15 January 2006
Saturday, 14 January 2006
THE number of staff employed by the public sector in Scotland has increased by 7,000 in the last year and now stands at 487,000.I'm sure that it's much the same down south.
Then I saw this heartening story in today's FT. Read the whole thing to see how an entrepreneur kept fighting even when faced with seemingly overwhelming odds:
It is a year since record flooding submerged the Cumbrian city of Carlisle, but the memory is still fresh for Paul Ashley, whose industrial door manufacturing business, Clark Door, was sunk under seven feet of polluted water.Would that ever growing army of public sector "workers" have coped? Mr Ashley did:
However, through a mixture of good local contacts, teamwork, business support and sheer determination, the company was able to get back to 80 per cent of its production capacity within six weeks without losing a single customer.And for anyone who is thinking along the lines of "exploiting" capitalist, consider this:
Clark Door employs 80 people, many of whom suffered personally with damage to their homes. But the swift action to rebuild the site meant that no one lost their jobs.Perhaps I'm too much of a pessimist. When people like Mr Ashley finally shrug, all of those public sector workers won't know what's hit them.
"I told those whose homes were flooded to sort that out first. If they had got their mind somewhere else, they were no use to me."
(Incidentally, if Scotland ever does become independent one must hope that Cumbria will choose to rejoin the Kingdom of Strathclyde.)
Friday, 13 January 2006
Surely only members can vote? Correct, only those who are members on January 26 will be able to vote. Membership is open, it costs a minimum of six pounds, so join and vote. For about 300,000 pounds the Tories can choose the new LibDem leader.Surely modern technology can enable us to clone Mr Gladstone?
But, don't worry:
Ministers said the rise reflected a strong economy...This isn't reassuring:
Although the private sector employs about three times as many people, public sector employment is growing at nearly twice the rate.Perhaps this may be a somewhat naive question, but haven't these people ever heard of Frederic Bastiat?
No, thought not.
May I recommend this quotation from the great man:
... you will oblige me to call out, "Stop there! Your theory is confined to that which is seen; it takes no account of that which is not seen."The problem isn't just the huge cost of this growing army of tax-consumers (that which is seen), but the opportunity cost of what the 9,000 could have produced in the real economy (that which is not seen).
First, some sites that I have added to the "Freedom" section of the Blogroll:
Then, a couple of aviation sites now linked to from the Blogroll under "And":
Finally, an addition to the "Whisky" section:
Tuesday, 10 January 2006
Sunday, 8 January 2006
For example, one proposition is this:
The fact that many people starve to death is unfortunate but unavoidable.I am meant to agree or disagree. But I don't accept the question! I believe that starvation is both unfortunate and avoidable. Simply introduce free markets and property rights.
Then, what about this:
We need stronger laws for protecting the environment.We do. But the laws required are the same as those needed to avoid starvation - free markets and property rights. Not probably what the quizmaster had in mind.
Then we get:
Employees should have the right to go on strike without the risk of being permanently replaced.Yes or No? It depends on what their contract says.
But here's my result:
| You are a |
You are best described as a:
Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test
Saturday, 7 January 2006
Hong Kong 1 [1.28]Can there really be any doubt that economic freedom and the resulting material prosperity are best served by having a tradition of limited government, objective laws, recognition of property rights and a system of sound money? Unfortunately, most members of the political class in the Anglosphere don't uphold the values that need to be defended.
Singapore 2 [1.56]
Ireland 3 [1.58]
Luxembourg 4 [1.60]
United Kingdom 5 [1.74]
Iceland 5 [1.74]
Estonia 7 [1.75]
Denmark 8 [1.78]
United States 9 [1.84]
Australia 9 [1.84]
New Zealand 9 [1.84]
Canada 12 [1.85]
Wednesday, 4 January 2006
JAMIE Oliver is the biggest celebrity influence on Britain's middle classes, ahead of everyone from David Cameron to Sir Trevor McDonald, according to a new style guide.But then I read in my paper that:
David Cameron, an Old Etonian, is in second place for wooing middle England when he ousted David Davis to win the leadership of the Conservative Party.Come on now guys: the Scotsman shouldn't start an article about "Britain" and then suddenly be writing about "England". That's the kind of sloppiness that we associate with newspapers published in the hometown of Jamie and "Dave". Was the Scotsman sub-editor having his tea break?
Anyway, I'll let them off this time because I was even more outraged by the next bit:
And the millionaire anti-poverty campaigner Chris Martin, the lead singer of easy-listening rock band Coldplay, came third for bringing such issues to a wider audience.Let's get this straight: when I see the terms "millionaire" and "anti-poverty campaigner" used in the same sentence, I reach for my revolver unless absolutely convinced that the millionaire in question is campaigning against poverty by advocating more capitalism. Rarely is that the case.
Today we saw an extraordinary variation in visibility across the city. This morning I drove to Leith in clear weather but the fog rolled in a bit along the coast towards Portobello. Fort Kinnaird was clear, as was the city bypass until I reached the outer western suburbs. Around Edinburgh Park it was increasingly difficult to see. On the way back in to town visibility suddenly cleared about three miles out. Later on I took a bus to Princes Street where the Castle had disappeared. Thirty minutes afterwards I managed to take these two handheld shots using my Canon A80 compact. (Click to enlarge.) A tripod would have been most useful.
Tuesday, 3 January 2006
Mr Monteith says he wants to see a sales tax introduced to place the burden on those with income who spend the most, and create a competitive environment between councilsOf course, I believe that mass privatisation of local government is the way to go but, in the meantime, I think that a sales tax is preferable to the current set-up. Indeed, I would go so far as to suggest that we get rid of income tax and NI completely and collect all taxes as VAT with the pre and post tax prices being prominently displayed.