The end of my involvement with LPUK

I've just sent this as an open letter which needs no explanation.


Please accept this open letter as my resignation from LPUK.

They say that the only things that you regret in life are the things you didn’t do, in my case this isn’t correct as I regret 2 of my actions:

The first was believing your bullshit and volunteering my time and money to an LPUK with you at the centre.

The second was believing that the party belonged to its members and, more importantly, that you believed it as well. I certainly misread those signs.

In an heroic case of the triumph of hope over experience I thought that a few quiet months might mean that you quietly went, but obviously you aren’t going. I should have let you close the party earlier this year, at least that way a true libertarian could have picked up the reigns after a year or so, but unfortunately my actions of trying to keep the party alive when you resigned, but refused to hand over the leadership to people who care, have allowed the name of libertarianism in this country to be sullied and I want no further part.

Your self-delusion and aggrandisement is an insult to libertarianism, but then as I look back I realise that this was never about libertarianism but about your own narrow view of the world, as your Stalinist approach to the party has shown. I am now convinced that you aren’t going to let the members have their say in a leadership contest until you have ensured that your grip is such that those who truly had the party’s best interests at heart have all left and you are surrounded by a few people who, for their own reasons, want to protect you as leader.

 I won’t say I wish you well for the future, I don’t .

 Simon Fawthrop

 PS Don’t bother making any replies confidential, your trade mark stance when someone disagrees with, I will publish them.


The new localism bill

I was at the Parish Council meeting last night and the new District Councillor gave a brief summary of the new localism bill which is going to hand down more powers, and money, to Parish Councils. As one of the more cynical PCs said - I'll beleive that when I see it, and so will I.

Anyway she reckons it will be a lot more than just planning that will be deregulated and we'll get to know more at the next meeting. This got me pondering the whole role of Government again the one where the idea is that we hire the state to do the things we can't do ourselves. So lets just say they devolve planning power to PCs, apart from being a NIMBYs charter what would it mean?

Well we wouldn't need a planning officer full time but we would need access to one to ensure that any submitted plans do follow basic planning laws, I presume we won't get carte blanche, so how could we organise that? Well we could get together with a few other Parish Councils and hire one or two. We could even delegate this task to a central body that coordinated a few other tasks, say bin collection, libraries and other services we want to pay for. That would make sense as we could get economies of scale.

So how would that be different to now, you may ask? Well the money would be flowing up through the system and we would be paying for the service by writing cheques and if that service wasn't good enough we could withhold payment until it is and ff we don't like it we could buy from somewhere else, maybe a private company and inject some healthy competition in to the market.

Now there's a good reason I use this as an example. About 3 months ago plans were received for some work on a house in the middle of a road triabgle. Its a really wierd situation but somebody chooses to live there. They wanted to remove a fence and build a wall amongst other seemingly cosmetic changes. The plans had come from the planning officer with no objections so we have to assume that the plans met building and all other statutory regulations, don't we? Anyway, these were passed and the work began a couple of weeks ago.

What nobody had spotted until we all realised that the junction had become seriously dangerous was that the new wall was a meter outside the old fence and now completely obscured the view to the left unless you got the front of your vehicle in to the middle of the road. However, the view is fairly blind to the right as well as it is up a short hill and when getting out of the junction you need to be a bit sharpish.

The PC is going to take this up with the highways department and see what can be done. My view, and bearing in mind I am not a Parish Councillor, is that a very stiff letter should be sent to the planning office asking them what the bloody hell they think they were playing at? They are the professionals and should be picking up this sort of thing and advising the PC of the likely impact or at least referring to the highways department at let them decide.

Under the new localism bill I would certainly be withholding payment for that piece of work.

Whales to devour Dorchester, Weymouth and Portland

The LPUK tale: Racoongate

The worst legacy of Richard Nixon is the way "gate" is now added to every scandal just so that we all know that it is a scandal of huge proportions, but that's a different story.

The next part of the sorry tale is the blog post on Anna Racoon's website that laid in to Andrew Withers that kicked off the mess that LPUK descended in to. I don't intend going through it in any detail, this isn't the point of this tale, but I will make a couple of general comments.

When the post was first published I did read it and when asked to summarise it by someone who didn't have the I said it described Andrew Withers as a bit of a Walter Mitty character who had financial problems. Readers can judge for themselves whether of not my description was accurate.

I should also say that prior to the post I had been advised by Andrew that he and Anna had fallen out and that I should be wary of her. I took the view then that I still hold, most of these allegations were of a personal nature and I didn't want to get involved. I was also contacted by Anna and didn't call her, although I did offer her my email addresses. I suppose she wanted to warn me of what was to happen and maybe with hindsight I could have called her and might have been able to mitigate some of what was about to happen. But that's speculation with the benefit of hindsight so I won't be losing sleep over my decisions.

Its fair to say that when the post hit the blogoisphere it generated rather a lot of interest, especially from members and supports demanding answers. The response of the Party was right then and still is: Andrew Withers stood aside while Nic Coome investigated. I have a lot of time for Nic, he's a good steady guy, maybe wasn't going to set the Party alight but, I beleived than and still believe now, his integrity is irreproachable.

While Nic was carrying out his investigation the blogosphere was running wild and with hindsight it was obvious that no report was going to satisfy some unless it summarily found Andrew guilty of all charges and called for him to be hung drawn and quartered. It was not a pleasant time and some of the accusations and counter accusation were quite vitriolic with claims of libel being bandied about. This hardly created the atmosphere for an objective investigation and report but Nic did as well as anyone could do, IMHO.

In hindsight I suppose it shouldn't have came as any surprise that Nic's report just added to heat of the debate both internally and externally, for by now there was lots of emotive accusations flying around within the NCC. The split boils down to those who believe there was a cover-up and those, like me, who accept Nic's report. I am not here to justify anybody else's motives only to discuss my own position in this sad affair so I won't be voicing any of those accusations.

Why did I support Nic's report? There are a number of reasons but he main one's are that it may be old fashioned but I believe in Cabinet responsibility and there was only one issue worth worrying about, the allegations of wrong doing with the accounts. Having trusted to Nic to write the report I don't have a problem with his argument that most of the affair was personal between Andrew and Anna Racoon.

The point about the accounts is a bit more complicated. Firstly, the allegation that there is a secret second account just shows a lack of understanding of how an HSBC business account works. When you open up a business account you automatically get a Business Money Management (BMM) account. This is like a savings account but you can only move money in and out from the current account so I didn't have a problem with that one.

As to the allegations that Andrew had been using the accounts for his own benefit I had a fairly simple approach. Andrew was in the process of handing over the accounts to John Watson and it had been Andrew who had been looking for a new Treasurer. That hardly seemed to be the actions of someone who was deliberately defrauding the Party and if he was then he had either got John involved in a cover-up or it was all going to come out. From what John was saying I really couldn't see this being a cover-up, so all we had to do was wait.

Unfortunately the debate had now degenerated in to mud slinging, denials, counter mudslinging and counter denials with threats of libel and police involvement. Emotions started to run very high, as they do when debates and argument are conducted by emails and blog post. A minority report issued by Ken Ferguson added more fuel to the fire and the debate degenerated even further, if that was possible.

By this time Andrew was getting ever more defensive and John Watson was getting frustrated that the accounts weren't being handed over, which led to even more accusations, denials and defensiveness.

During this I was getting disillusioned and wondering what to do as there appeared no way out of the mess. I decided that I would cut my losses and rather than tender my resignation at the end of the year would do it now. However with all this going on I didn't want to add to Nic's immediate problems so I said that I wanted it to take effect from the end of June or before then if they found a replacement. As that email went to Andrew and Nic on 15 May I judged that 6 weeks was enough to find a replacement.

If I had known what my resignation was going to trigger I would have taken a different approach, but again that's hindsight.


Wrong question on IVF

Radio 5 is asking the question: Is IVF a right? With the sub text can the NHS afford IVF?

This is based on the latest report from MPs that claims that:
More than 70% of NHS trusts and care providers are ignoring official guidance on offering infertile couples three chances at IVF
Others are placing tough restrictions on who can qualify.
The problem with this and any other debate on the NHS is that they rarely start from the premise that it is a rationed system. We might not like the idea but with modern treatments, especially treatments that extend the life of cancer patients by weeks or a few months huge expense, we will never be able to afford everything that everyone wants. These means that expectations are set way too high and the debate never addresses the real issue, how to apply rationing.

Furthermore, if IVF is a right it means someone else has an obligation to pay. This can be done in one of two ways: either we increase the health budget so that everyone gets all the treatments they want, irrespective of its impact on the economy, or someone else foregoes treatments that aren't a right.  In the former case we eventually end up with nobody getting treatment as the whole economy collapses under the dead weight of the increased taxes or we end up with a battle of "rights". For example, is the IVF treatment of one person more important than keeping alive a young mother so that she can spend, say, an extra six months with her young family by prescribing very expensive cancer drugs?

I don't know the answer to this one but what I do know is that MPs aren't helping with the debate by not being open and honest about the problem.

And then we move on to one of my favourite subjects, the postcode lottery. All 3 main parties keep talking about localism and the need for communities to take more control of their lives. This is something I loudly applaud but it does have a consequence. We here in Dorset may have different priorities to the people of, say, Newcastle. We may not like the rationing choices that are made but again its the local communities that make the choices and here are a few:

For example, Bury PCT only allows women to be treated between the ages of 39 and 40, with a similar picture in many Welsh Health Boards.

Others have restrictions on access for smokers, those who are overweight or if one of the couple already has a child - even if that child does not live with them.

At the time of the survey, five PCTs - Warrington, Stockport, North Yorkshire and York, North Staffordshire and West Sussex - offered no IVF at all.

As long as these restrictions are consistent within the community and published for all to see then what is the problem? And as West Sussex NHS spokeswoman says:

"Now we are in the new financial year, the decision we made last year on fertility treatment has been reviewed and funding has been reinstated for all eligible cases."


And do we really want MPs making the decisions from their ivory towers, especially when that decision is most likely to be based on the latest vote winning survey for their area?

"It's clear that many PCTs are not giving IVF the priority they should. There are instances where it is being lumped in with tattoo removals.”

Gareth Johnson MP

Do we really believe that  Mr Johnson's judgement that IVF is more deserving than tatoo removal? Me, I'll go with the local communities decisions rather than Mr Johnson's or any other MP for that matter.


I'd like to go to this but....This appears to be typical of this area - no time or place. .

Members of the public are invited to take part in a ceremony to honour the country’s service men and women as part of Armed Forces Week.

Members of the general public are invited to join representatives of all three Armed Forces, local dignitaries and councillors around the flag pole at North Dorset District Council on Monday 20 June to honour the country’s service men and women as part of Armed Forces Week.

Chairman of Council Lt Col Mike Oliver will welcome everyone to the ceremony. He will then hand over to Col Garry Hearn, Blandford Garrison Commander, who will give a brief resume of Blandford Camp and its links with the local community.

The Reverend Tim Storey, Rector of Blandford Forum and Langton Long, will lead the assembled group in a few minutes of prayer.

Armed Forces Day will take place on Saturday 25 June. The day is an annual opportunity for the nation to show its support and thanks to the service men and women who make up the Armed Forces community, from currently serving troops to service families and from veterans to cadets

This seems to be typical of this area. You get lots of notices without start times, including the Parish Council meeting, but this one excels, not only no time but no place.

How much do we pay these people?

The problem with this is the jobsworth syndrome

Dorset County Council will take up new enforcement powers under the Traffic Management Act 2004 from tomorrow (Wednesday 1 June 2011).

The new powers relate to three areas of parking enforcement:

1. Service of penalty charge notices by post:

The legislation now allows penalty charge notices (PCNs) to be sent by post.  This could be done if:

  • The civil enforcement officer (CEO) has started to issue a PCN and the driver of the vehicle returns and drives away before the CEO can attach the notice to the windscreen
OK, somebody's got to do this otherwise the roads will be choked so I don't have a problem with the principle of devolving it down to the Council and driving away shouldn't allow someone to avoid a penalty.
  • Or if the CEO is prevented from issuing the PCN due to the threat of physical violence and/or extreme verbal abuse
And this is a criminal offence, so stuff the penalty charge and bring them to court. The Magistrate/Judge can deal with the parking infringement at the same time.

But this:
2. Double parking or parking more than 50cm from the kerb:

The new powers mean that CEOs will be able to deal with inconsiderate parking causing congestion and road safety problems.

and this:

3. Parking at Dropped Kerbs:

New powers of enforcement will help deal with inconsiderate and selfish parking at pedestrian dropped kerbs and dropped kerbs outside someone’s property.

Is where I have a problem. Not that double parking and parking by dropped kerbs isn't a problem, no its the "inconsiderate" bit. It like one of those irregular verbs: my parking is OK, your parking is a bit dodgy, his parking is downright inconsiderate.

And who do we ask to be the arbiter of what is inconsiderate? Yes, some local council employee, for that is what they are no matter what the title, and in this country local council employees have a deserved reputation for being "jobs-worth's".

A low ranking official who follows their instructions and procedure to the letter. Often just to piss you off and to make them feel important. 

Most people will be pissed off but accept it if the police pick them up for bad parking, but will be outraged if it is some local council employee making what they believe to be an arbitrary and even capricious decision about whether of not their parking is inconsiderate.

I'll be watching out for more cases of CEOs being verbally assaulted.

The LPUK tale: Andrew Withers

I suppose that before I write any more LPUK saga I should give my opinions on the central character, Andrew Withers.

Andrew's blog was one of the blogs I read that attracted me to LPUK.  In the early days it showed a good understanding of politics and someone who genuinely wanted to change the way our politics is structured and delivered. I first met him, albeit briefly, when he talked at the inaugural SE Libertarian meeting. What he said made sense, that we are unlikely to get any LPUK MPs elected in his lifetime (and as we are the same age that means mine as well) but that doesn't mean we shouldn't start the process and start to change the debate. He came across as someone dedicated to the cause of freedom and fighting the authoritarian tendencies of the Labour Government.

What really inspired me at that meeting was the number of young, intelligent and committed members). Indeed the SE leadership had an average age of about 23, but that's a tale for another day.

As I said in a previous post, I next met him at a meeting to discuss how I could help the Party and I've subsequently met him on a number of occasions, including over the traditional pint. I've also had numerous email exchanges and telephone conversations so think I have got to know him reasonably well.

There is no doubt that Andrew has worked very hard for LPUK and has been a driving force. He was instrumental in getting a lot of people involved and working for the Party. He came across as having boundless energy. Not only was he setting up and trying to run a political party (with others), he was fighting a court case and trying to set up his own business. As the old saying goes, if you need something doing ask a busy person.

This bit I haven't discussed with anyone else,  but having said all the above I did feel that he started to lose his way. Some of his posts were erratic and he seemed to be losing direction and his leadership started to lose direction. Maybe it was me and maybe it was the general situation but we were drifting. We had a new Government and with the loss of a focus for the Party, the authoritarian Labour Government. People seemed to be willing to give the Coalition a chance, especially as the Orange Book elements of the LibDems were holding so many places in the Government.

The slow decline of LPUK is not necessarily Andrew's fault, there are others in the Party, including me, who could have been doing more. But as one Regional Coordinator said recently, there is a lot of apathy out there. However, it is in difficult times that organisations look to their leaders for direction and inspiration, unfortunately that wasn't happening.

As I didn't want any front of house role (see previous post) I decided that I would complete the year in office and stand down in November. There was no reason to make life any more difficult for the Party than leaving part way through the year so I would continue to manage the membership databases and help where I could.

I Andrew's defence I should say that managing a libertarian party is never going to be easy, everyone knows how the Party should be organised and run and what the policies should be and how the party can grow. Unfortunately not every wanted to stand up and take on the leadership. If you want to understand how difficult any leader will find the job just look at the  the proposals for the Party's future, as you will see there are N+1 opinions, where N is the number of people offering opinions. It really is the proverbial herding cats.

In conclusion, I would say that Andrew is to be applauded for the energy and effort he has put in to the Party but perhaps we should consider the Party like a business. Those who set up businesses are rarely those who can take them on and run the successfully into the medium and long term and perhaps, through no fault of his own, Andrew was never going to be the right person to ensure that Party continues to grow.


Why I got involved with LPUK

Anyone looking at what is going on with LPUK will know that I am at the centre of a lot of the recent discussions and disputes. Up to now I have tried to keep my own council while I tried to keep the Party alive for the sake of the members. I have tried to limit my comments on other blogs to correcting what I believe to be a blatant factual error or someone putting words in my mouth. One of the main reasons for minimising my input is that  the whole affair has been very emotional and lots of comment sections have just degenerated into flame wars and I have been trying, unsuccessfully, to negotiate a way through the mess.

So as this is my gaff and my rules I'll put my point of view here and will not allow the comments, if I get any, to contain any emotional or inflammatory comments.

Its probably best to start with why I got involved with LPUK and took on a role within the NCC. I have always taken a keen interest in politics and current affairs, by this I mean from as long as I can remember discussions about news with my father, which is some time in the 60s. Having left school at 15 and joined the Army I never really had time to get active and it somehow wasn't appropriate while still serving. On leaving the Army in 1990 building a new career became the priority so I contented myself with shouting at the TV.

Although my father was born and raised in the slums of Bradford, a strong Union and Labour area, he was always scathing of them and often described them as the working man's worst enemy. That doesn't mean he was a Tory, he could be scathing about them as well. He tended to vote on the basis of the least worst politician theory and I am aware of him voting for all 3 of the main parties. Indeed he once used my proxy vote to Liberal, against my wishes, but he judged them the best bet for the local election. Sadly he died not long after Maggie Thatcher was elected but he did support a lot of her economic policies but not ncessarily the social ones. He did back her over the miners strike, having suffered the 3 day week trying to run a pub. He hated Heath and Wilson with equal measure.

I tended to support the Conservative Party but this was more of an anti Labour position than a pro Tory one, although I was and still am a fan of Maggie Thatcher. However as I had the time to read more widely I realised this was more to do with her relatively liberal economic policies as much as anything else.

It was the confluence of New Labour's authoritarianism and the rise of blogging that really taught me that what I had come to figure out for myself was actually well grounded theory. The biggest influences were Tim Worstall from who I learned  a lot about classic liberalism and basic economics,  more on Tim's influence at a later date, and the Devil's Kitchen for the introduction to libertarianism.

I joined LPUK with the intention of helping out financially where I could and to do a bit of campaigning, although at the time I was very busy with work. In August 2009 I took redundancy with the aim of taking a year out to do a few personal projects and to have a long relax while still young enough (53) to enjoy it. As the wages were going I said to the then Treasurer (Andrew Withers)  that I couldn't make any more donations but as I had a lot of experience with setting up organisations I would be more than willing to help out where I could.

Andrew took me at my word and arranged a meeting with him, Gregg Beamann (who was to become Chairman) and another guy who I haven't met or heard of since. At the meeting Andrew asked me to take on the role of Membership Sec and Nominations Officer. I agreed although not sure what that involved. I was to find out later  that it was whatever I could make of it.

One of the things that the Party did want was renationalisation and I set about defining regions where they didn't exist (this in its self was contentious and caused a few arguments), idendfying members who lived in those areas and trying to persuade someone to step forward as a regional coordinator when we didn't have one. There were a few other tasks but it wasn't a difficult job, although time consuming to start with.

The role suited me, I'm always quite happy working in the background and as I'm no political theorist I didn't want an outward looking role. During this period I met some very good people, certainly not the selfish baby eaters that the left like to portray libertarians. I also recognised that I am very naive when it comes to active politics and political parties as were a lot of members but we were all willing to learn.

So this is how I got myself in to the middle of a dispute that although minor in real world terms has seen some of the most vitriolic and emotional arguments I have ever seen, and I've seen a few.


So MPs think they work too hard

New MPs are finding the combination of long hours and a heavy workload a struggle, and worry the job is harming their family lives, research suggests.

A survey by the Hansard Society of the 227 MPs elected for the first time in 2010 suggest the new intake are working an average of 69 hours a week.

One said the demands of Westminster and constituency work had a "devastating" impact on their private life.

Absolutely no sympathy from these quarters. There a re plenty of people queueing to do the job. But lets think about one of proposed solutions, more daytime business hours.

There's a very good reason Parliament sits in the afternoons and evenings. It is to allow Ministers to do their Ministerial duties in their departments in the morning and then be able to attend Parliament, hopefully to be held to account, in the afternoons and evening. I'll bet Ministers would just love to be able to hide away in their departments and not have to do the dreary bit of accounting for their actions.

Of course there is another solution. Stop passing stop legislating the minutiae  of our lives, stop bringing new legislation every bloody year to update or correct the crap you got wrong in the last legislation.

PS Suddenly I feel a desire to start blogging again, although I suspect it will remain sporadic.


RIP Seve Ballesteros

The world is a richer place for all the pleasures you brought and you will be widely missed.


Why Cameron should really fear inflation

As inflation continues its progressive march, now reaching 4%, David Cameron should fear it beyond the normal economic arguments.

The baby boomer generation (full disclosure that just about includes me) lived through the high inflation of the 70s and 80s and remembers it as a very unpleasant experience. In the 70s it was accompanied by, and in part driven by, excessive wage claims backed up by strikes which disrupted everyone's lives. I remember as a young apprentice soldier having an inflation adjustment in my monthly meagre pay packet which on the surface seemed quite nice, but that was more than offset by the almost daily increases in the price of blanco.

In the 80s it was also accompanied by strikes and restructuring the economy. Some of the strikes were violent and very few who lived through that era will not be scarred in some way by the scenes of the miners and police in pitched battles.

So without getting in to a cause vs correlation argument inflation is associated with civil disruption and civil disobedience but more pertinently for us baby boomers is what it did to savings. We are all well aware that those who suffered most in that period were pensioners and others trying to get by on a fixed income and this is Cameron's problem, baby boomers are now starting to retire and looking at living on a fixed and reduced income. It may only be the first few now but in 4 years it will be peaking.

Of course what these baby boomers will forget, or at least pretend to forget, is how much they benefited from inflation at the time. That same inflation eroded their mortgage debt very quickly and gave them the perception of wealth through house ownership but that won't be forefront of their minds as they consider what inflation is doing to their savings. Self interest, especially when they read stories like this:

The NHS is failing to treat elderly patients in England with care, dignity and respect, an official report says.

The Health Service Ombudsman came to the conclusion after carrying out an in-depth review of 10 cases.

The ombudsman, which deals with serious complaints against the NHS, said the patients - aged over 65 - suffered unnecessary pain, neglect and distress.

will be the order of the day.

Its also well known that older people are more likely to vote  and this is where Dave's problems will lie come the next general election in 4 years time. If he doesn't kill inflation there will be a backlash by the grey vote that could see the Tories and LibDems thrashed out of sight. It won't matter that Labour's policies would have probably caused more inflation and higher debt, the incumbent quite rightly gets the kicking.

But at the same time if he doesn't tackle the deficit and debt continues to increase there won't be any money to provide the services that these baby boomers will also be demanding.

So here's his conundrum - the simplest way of reducing the deficit and debt burden is inflation. It would also avoid, or at least reduce, those nasty cuts that we are starting to endure (how will we ever live without a library?) and which will only get worse. As Ken Clarke warned the middle classes don't really understand what is about to hit them.

So damned if if does and damned if he doesn't, but my betting is that he fears the backlash in 4 years time more than the current political storm.




Now we find out how well the US has trained the Egyptian army

I don't mean as a fighting force, but as a servants of the people. All serviceman in a democracy are educated in the doctrine of civilian control of the armed forces. It is one of the first things that you learn and as you progress through the ranks it is stressed more and more.

It is also something that is stressed whenever training overseas armed forces personnel, either in their own country or at our various military schools and colleges in the the UK but especially at Sandhurst. Those bonds that are formed in training last a lifetime and it is a great form of soft power.

We have heard complaints during the uprising that the US gives $billions to Egypt with most of it going to the Army. SO now is the time to find out of those links will pay dividends. We have heard that senior US military are talikng to senior Egyptian officers so it looks like the soft power could be working.

That the Egyptian military hasn't been the instrument of oppression also bodes well. They do seem to have been a disciplined bunch and by refusing to side with Mubarak and his thugs have earned the trust of the people, lets just hope they maintain it.

The real danger is that having tasted power the Generals decide that they enjoy it and don't step aside or if they do remain a constant threat like the have in Turkey by appointing themselves as guardians of the constitution.


Public sector unions are far too power

I see that vested interests of the public sector unions and senior doctors are starting to flex their muscles muscles  over the proposed Tony Blair Tory NHS reforms. Labour has even managed that wonderful thing in politics of completely disowning the past and are now vehemently opposed to the very policies that they proposed when in Government as Dizzy points out:
Some may also remember that just a few months ago I asked a genuine questions for lefties about what was more important to them. That NHS services be free at the point of use universally for everyone, or the structure that delivers the service.

At the time, most of them said the former, not the latter was more important. However, the reaction that is brewing to the continued implementation and extension of Labour policies by the Coalition is, naturally, based more on the latter.

Yes children, that's right! We are now through the wonderful looking glass where the Opposition denounce policies based entirely on their own policies of the last decade because it's Tories implementing them.

Is it anyone wonder so many people think politics is a load of bollocks when thes sort of intellectually vacuous and fluid position changes are so prevalent any sane person can see them?
Of course this will al be dressed up as protecting the public and patients. We will no doubt hear dire threats about the end of our NHS and other hyperbole by those who really are no more than vested interests looking after their own, which in most cases is what they are paid to do. Sadly, they have far too much power and may well get their way.

Don't believe me? Think that is just anti-union libertarian scaremongering? Well......

I should first say that I don't have a problem with unions, not only because of free association, but I am sure that some employers, including the public sector, find it easier to deal with a group of workers doing the same task through a single entity. I am also aware that unions provide good professional insurance and public protection for their members. My wife was a member of a teachers union for those very reasons.  But that doesn't give them the right use threats and strikes to derail Government policy.

There was very good briefing on public sector unions in Economist recently which is well worth the read. I can't link to the main article as it is behind a pay wall but the leader is available. But that is only the start. From the briefing we learn much about the public sector's aversion to reform:
Public-sector unions enjoy advantages that their private-sector rivals only dream of. As providers of vital monopoly services, they can close down entire cities. And as powerful political machines, they can help to pick the people who sit on the other side of the bargaining table [Ed Miliband].
Left-leaning economists reply that public-sector workers are, on average, better educated. Whatever the merits of this argument, three things seem clear. Unions have suppressed wage differentials in the public sector. They have extracted excellent benefits for their members. And they have protected underperforming workers from being sacked.
The unions’ influence extends to the size and nature of the public sector. Private-sector unions have learned to exercise self-restraint when it comes to pushing for more manpower: they realise that more workers may reduce the wages of their members and that a higher wage bill may drive their employers out of business. But public-sector unions are relentless in demanding more resources and more personnel, which conveniently translate into more members and more dues.
Their most dramatic success has been in Britain. When Britain’s union-backed New Labour government came to power in 1997, public spending accounted for almost 40% of GDP. When it left power in 2010 public spending was nearly 50% of GDP (partly, to be fair, as a result of recession), and 1m workers had been added to the public-sector payrolls.
It would be a mistake to write off the public-sector unions. They are masters of diverting attention from strategic to tactical questions.
As some readers may know the erstwhile leader of LPUK got in to a spot of bother when he lost his temper over this very subject. The post is now off-line and so is the original article that John Gummer wrote so I can't link to either of them. However I do have some of the original quotes, from John Gummer who was talking about an encounter he had:
I've been thinking about an exchange I had in Manchester. Britain's second largest teaching union, the NUSWT, promoted itself at the three Party Conferences. Their stand was uncompromising. The posters contained no hint of renewal or improvement; no recognition of the huge increase in attainment that the nation demands. Simply a series of statements opposing even this Government's relatively feeble attempts at reform. Above them all the keynote claim 'PUTTING TEACHERS FIRST'.

I approached the imposing woman behind the counter. "Shouldn't that read 'putting children first' I ventured. "Certainly not! We're a Trade Union and I'm its General Secretary."
That got The Devil going but for me it that wasn't a surprise as I've always taken the view that unions are their to represent their members and nobody else. I learned this from my father who grew up in the slums of Bradford and worked in the mills as a young man. He was always scathing of unions both for their selfishness and also for their incompetence. Anyway, I digress, more from John Gummer's encounter:
"But haven't you noticed that on the commercial stalls around you businesses are saying that they put the customer first?" Mrs Chris Keates [the union rep] drew herself up to her full height. "I won't take lessons from the private sector with their bonus culture," she expostulated
So how to curb their power and get some control back in our hands, those that pay for and use the services? I suppose we can give the coalition some grudging approval for trying:

Education vouchers are a good start in curbing the power of the teaching unions. I would go further and allow profits to be made but if we can get the money following children then the best schools will flourish and the teaching unions will lose power as pupils gravitate to the schools where the militant unions have less control.

There is nothing like personal contact for ensuring that our money is spent in our best interests and not the vested interests of  the healthy lobby. If I can sit with my GP and choose a hospital or consultant I am going to be choosing the one that cures me and gets me home without killing me first. It will be harder for poor hospitals to hide behind the fact they we have little choice when it comes to failing patients and giving them MRSA.

OK, so that's the simple view and reams of paper will be filled analysing those two subjects alone, but if they are to succeed they will curb the power of the vested interests and we will all be better off and much as I would like them to go further, I would prefer that these small steps were successful first, for the price of failure doesn't bear thinking about.


Muslim Brotherhood and The Tea Party

There was a simple, but predictable, question on Question Time of Thursday: Should the Egyptian people be allowed to vote in to Government the Muslim Brotherhood? The answer should have been simple but instead the panellists went off into lala land trying to defend their own prejudices.

The answer should have been: of course they should if that's what the Egyptian people want.

And this is where the Tea Party comes in. Their anal insistence on the Constitution has been the butt of many jibes form the left, but it is that insistence that stops organisations like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hitler, Stalin and even the Tea Party, being elected and then changing the rules to ensure permanent Government, which we commonly call dictatorship.


Tomorrow's weather forecast: If it doesn't rain it wil be dry

Back in the days when we thought Idi Amin was just a buffoon rather than a brutal dictator there was a a famous weather forecast sketch that I was reminded of yesterday:

 <iframe title="YouTube video player" class="youtube-player" type="text/html" width="480" height="390" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/4zlMO4z2T74" frameborder="0" allowFullScreen></iframe>

So what dragged up this little snippet from 30-odd years ago? Via Bishop Hill we learn of the Met Office's winter forecast:
On 25 October 2010, the Met Office provided the Cabinet Office with an updated three-monthly forecast, which suggested a 40 per cent chance of cold conditions, a 30 per cent chance of near average conditions and a 30 per cent chance of mild conditions over northern Europe.

They deign to frighten us to death with tales of future doom 100 years hence if we don't all impoverish ourselves by giving up the evil pollutant CO2 yet all they can do for a winter forecast is nothing more than a three way guess.


Advice for every dictator, Clinton was right, its the economy, stupid

As the former Tunisian president goes in to exile and half his cabinet is removed and now trouble is flaring in Egypt and other places it is worth considering what has caused the popular uprising.

It isn't a lack of democracy, much as  those of us who cherish democracy we would like to think, its lack of economic opportunity. It wasn't the lack of a vote that caused Mohamed Bouazizi to torch himself, it was grinding poverty and lack of opportunity that someone with a degree and ambition had to put up with. The French revolution wasn't about the vote, it was about the poverty of the proletariat whilst the rich looked after themselves. The same can be said for many revolutions and the fall of the former Soviet Union.

One history lecturer I had whilst doing some Army eduction courses reckoned that the reason that we never had a revolution in the UK around the time of the French revolution was that the political elite kept one step ahead of popular unrest by doing just enough to improve the lot of the proletariat to keep them mollified.

I'd even go as far as saying that the revolt against apartheid wasn't about the vote, it was because the white population enjoyed a wealthy lifestyle whilst the black population lived in poverty with no hope of improvement.

For all his faults Clinton knew this, as do most politicians. The reason Blair and Brown got away with so much bad government and authoritarianism was that they created the illusion of wealth through rising house prices and throwing money at the public sector. There is no way Blair would have got away with taking us in to war if we had all been feeling the pinch of economic down turn.

And this is where the Chinese come in. The Communist Party isn't stupid and and wants to cling on to power for all its worth and the only way to do this is to let the people get gradually wealthier. If they hadn't started to liberalise (I use this term in a relative context) the economy after Tienanmen Square they knew they faced ever increasing threats to their rule. Things are still bad in the countryside in China but for city dwellers life is getting better and they aren't minded to challenge the Communist Party and put up with the lack of civil liberties we regard as underpinning our freedoms. The same happened in HK, British rule was tolerated because the Chinese were allowed to get gradually wealthier.

Perhaps Egypt and Syria might hold down the protests with some brutality for now, but if the dictators don't listen to Clinton the end is inevitable - its benign dictatorship or eventually bloody revolution. They can build up the instruments of terror and try to impose brutal suppression but as
Mohamed Bouazizi  showed eventually the regime they impose can't cope with desperation and the human spirit. 

The only thing that is worrying is that their may be a more brutal regime stepping in first, as Iranians learned when they threw out the Shah and accepted rule by mad men who used the authority of some desert dwelling warlord to justify their own brutality.


On Illsley and the BBC

I couldn't believe the BBC last night with Robinson trying to somehow mitigate Ilsley's thieving. Apparently because MPs don't think they are paid enough they were given these allowances, not expenses he reminded us, but allowances. The problem, as Robinson perceives it, is  is that those rich bastard Tories could claim for their duck island (complete with standard pictures) but poor Labour MPs are left to claiming for bath plugs to make up their pay.

Leaving aside whether or not these are legitimate allowances (they aren't) this crook made up his claims, it wasn't even a legitimate expenditure within the existing very lax rules. What is wrong with these BBC types? (That's rhetorical.)

And then on Today we had a comment that if he had any integrity he'd resign. No, if he'd had any integrity he wouldn't have stood at the last election knowing he was guilty. Perhaps some extra punishment for the extra costs he cause?

Feeling pleased with myself

We took part in a national simultaneous pairs competition on Monday night and did rather well. Bearing in mind that this is only the 5th time we've played together and only the 7th time I've played competition Bridge I'm rather pleased with the results: 2nd in the club and in the 20% nationally out of 1800 pairs.


FoI act extension - letter to my MP

Following on from a post on the tireless campaigner  Dick Puddlecote's blog I've just written to my MP:
Dear Robert,

Firstly, thank you for following up on my letter about local government spending on trade union activities. I shall indeed be following this up with Hillary and monitoring the situation closely and lobbying for change.

 I was pleased to see that Nick Clegg has announced an extension to the FoI act to cover, as I understand it from the Daily Telegraph:

 Among the institutions expected to become subject to the laws are: the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, academy school trusts, the Financial Ombudsman Service, the Local Government Association, the Advertising Standards Authority and Network Rail.

This is indeed a good move and one which is to be applauded and supported. However I fear it doesn’t go far enough as there appears to be one category of recipient of tax payers’ money that isn’t being held to account, what is often referred to as fake. If you are not familiar with the term these are charities that receive all, or most, of their funding from  Government departments and then use that funding to lobby Government to change the law to suit their own often self righteous  prejudices. It  often gave Labour a smokescreen when introducing their illiberal laws, which usually involved the banning of something and further reducing personal liberty, by claiming that it had the support of “charities”.

As the Tax Payers Alliance said in their statement on the subject:

Our report on Taxpayer funded lobbying and political campaigning found that many organisations like Alcohol Concern were dependent on the Department of Health for the vast majority of their funding. Nick Clegg should be commended for this move but it’s crucial that bodies such as these are included in the broadened scope of the Act if taxpayers are to be given full information on public spending.

With that in mind I would like to ask you to push for a simple amendment to any new Bill or secondary legislation to include the following simple statement:

All third parties in receipt of public money will be expected to comply with the freedom of information act with regards to the use and management of public funds

Obviously the security services would be exempt, but this should just about cover everyone else spending our hard earned money.

Yours Sincerely



Could the tradional Matron ever return to the NHS?

We got on the subject of the poor performance of the NHS in the pub last night, well specifically the poor performance of hospitals - it seems to be a popular subject at the moment. The standard call for Matrons to be reinstated was met with the usual agreements by all, except from little old contrary me.

Not that I don't think its a good idea, if we assume that Matron is the type of character played by Hatti Jacques. One that marches round barking orders at all and sundry, including doctors, and only accepting the highest of standards. There is no doubt that sort of person would raise standards in any industry, but it just won't work in today's work place and especially the over protected civil service work place that we hear so much about.

I don't disagree that there is a problem as from my own experience of hospital wards as a patient and visitor there is a complete lack of direction. Nurses seem to gather around a "station" gossiping and then wandering about aimlessly doing the odd task and only going to patients when called. Nobody seems to be managing the ward, issuing tasks and making sure they are completed, walking about chatting to patients to see how they are, checking up on cleaners and and all the other tasks that a good manager should be doing.

The reason I don't think it will work is that people don't like taking orders nowadays, not that they ever really did, and within weeks, if not days, there would be complaints to HR and pretty soon talk of bullying. Matron would come under pressure to back off in case staff started leaving or worse still claims of constructive dismissal,  and many would be off sick with "stress" or some other ailment that can't be diagnosed. Pretty soon the whole thing would descend in to chaos.

So, no, bringing the traditional Matron isn't the solution, but more active management is needed.

When Nudge becomes prod

There has been some debate about Nudge and how it can been used, especially in terms of organ donation. For those not aware Nudge is a book by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein based on the premise that we aren't very good about making decisions about our long term future. The idea is that the decision architecture is set up so that that by default we end up with the decision that experts have decided is best for us and that we have to make a positive action to change it. But, furthermore, taking that action should be low cost and easy.

I haven't read the book but I know a man who has and he has excellent libertarian bona fides and he seems quite relaxed about the concept because, as he says:
But Thaler and Sunstein never view the public as unwitting dupes of corporations and peer-pressure. Rather, they view people as fundamentally sensible, if not always well informed. As such, they set significant limits on the kind of nudging that can be considered tolerable in a liberal society.
When they talk about making 'good' choices easier, they actually mean it. Unlike the UK Faculty of Health and the last British government, they do not mean banning 'bad' choices.
I have also heard Richard Thaler speak on the subject and, often to the dismay of the interviewer, he seemed quite relaxed about people opting out of whatever Nudge scenario had been set up.

The classic example is retirement savings. Most people would agree that saving for retirement is not only in our own best interst but also that of wider society who pick up the tab if we don't. So using Nudge principles we are automatically enrolled in a plan and have to opt out if we don't want to save. There may be very good reasons why people want to opt out, investing in education to get higher future rewards, for example, but whatever they are it is not the business of the rest of us, and especially politicians, to chastise and berate those who do opt out.

The subject that is causing a stir at the moment is organ donation and it is something that Longrider has been debating for some time. The idea is that we should have some form of presumed consent that our organs can be used when we die unless we opt out. The way many see it working is that we automatically consent when we apply for a driving licence and have to make an decision to opt out by, for example, ticking a box. Why just drivers I don't know, maybe it should be automatic when reaching the age of 18 and you receive a letter that you have to return or go to a web site to opt out I don't know, but the mechanics aren't the point, its the whole concept of Nudge and organ donations that is the issue.

As long as the opt out is very easy I don't have a problem with the concept. But that isn't the issue that is causing most angst, it is what happens to those who opt out. There are some, amongst them commenters on Longrider's blog and on the original CiF piece that prompted the debate, who seem to think that those who opt out should be vilified and not allowed to be the recipient of organs.  There are others who think that opt outs shouldn't be available and we shouldn't have any say in the matter. To which the answer is, if that is your argument do not claim to be using Nudge. Why people would want to opt out out of organ donations is there own choice, even if its for some daft religious ritual it is none of our business and we should respect that choice and not hold it against them when it come to medical treatment.

And this is the problem with Nudge. It has been taken on by politicians and the righteous to further their own aims and prod us in to doing things we don't want to do, even if they would be better for us. Nudge is fast becoming prod and even shove and it looks like we are going to have to start applying Jefferson's maxim to Nudge:
The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.


NHS contract cleaning isn't the problem

I got in to discussion on the NHS this morning. The usual argument that hospitals were spotlessly clean until jobs were contracted out was trotted out to knowing nods.

Unfortunately they didn't have an answer when I pointed out that the private hospital I had an operation in  a couple of years ago was spotlessly clean and they used contract cleaners.

The problem isn't the cleaning company, they are doing what comes naturally, the problem is the original tendering process and allocation of contracts. If you don't set the quality threshold correctly and then chose the cheapest that meets the bidding requirements then of course you get problems. But then as Wat Tyler keeps pointing out, what do you expect from the Simple Shopper?


Your spare room belong us

George Monbiot has caused something of a stir with his latest green eyed wittering - the state owns your spare rooms. :
The issue is surplus housing – the remarkable growth of space that people don't need. Between 2003 and 2008 (the latest available figures), there was a 45% increase in the number of under-occupied homes in England. The definition of under-occupied varies, but it usually means that households have at least two bedrooms more than they require. This category now accounts for over half the homes in which single people live, and almost a quarter of those used by larger households. Nearly 8m homes – 37% of the total housing stock – are officially under-occupied.
With George and his mates deciding what we need of course. It doesn't matter that we may have scrimped and saved for something because we want it, if George and his mates say we don't need it, we don't get it. You can just imagine the star chambers where you have to beg to be able to keep a couple of spare rooms for your obscure hobbies like making matchstick models or maybe because you like entertaining friends or grand children. In our last house we had two rooms dedicated for painting, would the star chamber decide if my wife's art is good enough to justify such extravagance?
The only occasions on which you'll hear politicians talk about this is when they're referring to public housing. Many local authorities are trying to encourage their tenants to move into smaller homes.
There's a good reason for this. If someone is in subsidised housing and they are entitled to a larger subsidised house as their family grows then it is not unreasonably for them to move to a smaller home as their family leave, not withstanding a spare room for the grandchildren to visit.
But public and social housing account for only 11% of the problem. The government reports that the rise in under-occupation "is entirely due to a large increase within the owner-occupied sector". Nearly half of England's private homeowners are now knocking around in more space than they need.
See that bit about owner, George, that means someone has paid for it and its there's to do with as they please. As Shuggy (hardly a right winger) says:
Anyway - and I appreciate some might find this an unsettlingly rightwing argument - the house isn't part of some 'common stock'; it is hers because she bought it.
But here's the real problem, George doesn't want to solve the housing shortage in the customary way, by providing more:
The only answer anyone is prepared to mention is more building: let the rich occupy as much space they wish, and solve the problem by dumping it on the environment, which means – of course – on everyone. I think there's a better way.
Its that Gaia thing again. We can't build more houses because George doesn't like that solution, despite the fact that we really do have a lot of spare land in this country as a quick look at Google maps shows.

I know that columnists have to be controversial and raise difficult subjects, but when they come up with such idiocy they not only get a good fisking and leave themselves open to charges of hypocrisy, as you can see in the comments section, but sometimes an interesting idea is doesn't get a fair hearing:
I would also like to see an expansion of the Homeshare scheme, which could address several growing problems at once. Instead of paying rent, lodgers – who are vetted and checked by the charity that runs the project – help elderly homeowners with shopping, cleaning, cooking, gardening or driving. Typically they agree to spend 10 hours a week helping out, and to sleep in the house for at least six nights out of seven. This helps older people to stay in their own homes and lead an independent life, gives them companionship and security and relieves some of the pressure on social services and carers. It provides homes for people who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford them.
On a purely voluntary basis there may be some mileage in this, but any rational discussion will have to wait for another day columnist than George.

H/T dearieme in the first comment here


Another example of why we need checks on power

The benevolent dictator is one of those dreamy ideas that some see as a better system than democracy and its reliant on politicians. It has its charms but the problem is that not only does power corrupt, but unchecked power attracts those who really aren't benevolent and are just looking for the main chance. This is why we need openess in Government with the separation of executive, legislature and judiciary, civilian control of the police and armed forces and a strong and independent Fourth Estate to ensure that those with ulterior motives do not get into positions of power, or if they do it is checked.

So I wasn't surprised when I read this recent story from Archbishop Cranmer:
Mammon seems to have become a bit of an issue in the Holy See.

Not content with the systematic cover-up of child rape and the sheltering of paedophile priests, it appears that there has been more than a little collusion with the Mafia in money-laundering.

The Vatican Bank (aka the Institute for Works of Religion) has been guarding Peter’s Pence (actually, €1,000,000,000s) since Mussolini cut a deal with the Lateran Pacts in 1929. Its chief exec is accountable to a committee of cardinals, and ultimately to the Pope.
As I say, it shouldn't come as a surprise when you consider:
The Vatican is a sovereign city-state and is not under the jurisdiction of the Godless, secular, anti-Christian, immoral and corrupt EU (despite fervently desiring to foist it upon all other European states). It is all a question of papal sovereignty: the Pontifex Maximus cannot simultaneously be Catholic and subject to a higher temporal authority, especially when that higher authority is somewhat antithetical to Canon Law. The Vatican Bank is not supervised by the IMF and hitherto has not been subject to EU regulations and controls on money-laundering, despite being a member of the eurozone.

Since the Holy See also has no border security, it is perhaps unsurprising that l'Istituto per le Opere di Religione has been a rather useful mechanism for money laundering and tax evasion.
We really should trust nobody, not even, or maybe especially,  those who profess to be so righteous they can moralise about the way the rest of us lead our lives. Ronald Reagan summed it up beautifully: Trust and Verify.

*Some will argue a written constitution as well but that's for another day

Very amusing put down

Anyone who follows cricket closely will know that Sir Ian "Beefy" Botham and Geoff Boycott don't exactly get on and there doesn't seem to many areas where they are in agreement, except both wanting England to win the current Ashes series and I suspect they would agree with each other through gritted teeth. They rarely miss an opportunity to have a dig at each other and sometimes they are quite amusing.

The latest one from Boycott comes from his Daily Telegraph column of a few weeks ago which I receive by email:
Who said Andrew Strauss was a conservative captain? We've only bowled nine overs, and here comes Graeme Swann. Ian Botham's up to his usual tricks on Sky. He wants a silly point, a man round the corner, a leg slip, two naan breads and another Kingfisher. Botham's favoured field-setting is the 9-7 field. (Ian Botham's record as England captain: played 12, won 0, drawn 4, lost 8.)more.
Ouch. I haven 't seen a retort yet but keep looking.

Confirming my belief that religion should be kept out of schools

For some reason I am on the distribution list of the London School of Islamics and get regular emails on whatever is their current whinge. The latest one centres around a Panorama program that I didn't see and so cannot on whether or not this is accurate:
John Ware is nothing more than an Islamophobe and an Islam basher. To single out Islam as the only religion where such so-called teachings are given proves Ware's own prejudice, bigotry and hatred
Given that we are talking about the BBC and not some rabid US religious right TV station I'm tempted to go with this being an opening statement in a game of victimhood poker. But I'm not interested in the standard special pleading from special interest groups what I am interested in is how my taxes are spent and how our children are educated because that is something I do have a stake in.

What I am not interested in is religion, not just Islam, but all religions. They are divisive special interest groups who believe that they have some special right to tell me how to live my live, beyond the harm principle, and so I don't support their right to religious schools for any reason, but especially not for the following reasons:
 A Muslim is a citizen of this tiny global village. He/she does not want to become notoriously monolingual Brit. He/she must be well versed in Standard English to follow the National Curriculum and go for higher studies and research to serve humanity. At the same time he/she must be well versed in Arabic, Urdu and other community languages to keep in touch with cultural roots and enjoy the beauty of literature and poetry
No, if you have come here from another part of the world you are more than welcome but you have come here to take part in, and benefit from, our way of life, something which has developed over 100's of years of struggle, of trial and error, of wars, civil and external. We are a mongrel society and have welcomed many different nationalities, especially those fleeing terror and oppression and I and I know many others are proud of that. One thing that binds us is our history and that, and only that, should be taught in our schools. In passing they should cover other cultures, not to teach them as something to live by here, but so that we know how to work alongside. And they certainly should be teaching from any religious books, be they Bibles or the Koran.
 It is not wrong to teach children that anti-social behaviour, drinking, drugs, homosexuality, sex before marriage, teenage pregnancies and abortions are western values and Islam is against all such sins.
They may well be sins, but with the exception of drugs and perhaps anti social behaviour which is a grey area, they are all legal in this country and to that end it is not up to schools to teach them as sins. And what the hell is homosexuality doing in there? That's a personal issue and we've been through years of struggle to get it accepted and not to be condemned or discriminated against, so it certainly isn't the place of schools, or anywhere else for that matter, to teach it as a sin.

The full email is below if you want to read it, but all its done is confirm my views that religion should be removed from state schools and religious schools deprived of all state funding and closely monitored, at their expense, to ensure that they do not teach anything that remotely smacks of undermining our society, which is one of tolerance of others and equality for all.


Established 1981

London School of Islamics    

An Educational Trust

63 Margery Park Road London E7 9LD

Email: info@londonschoolofislamics.org.uk


Tel/Fax: 0208 555 2733 / 07817 112 667


BBC Panorama: Muslim Schooling

John Ware is nothing more than an Islamophobe and an Islam basher. To single out Islam as the only religion where such so-called teachings are given proves Ware's own prejudice, bigotry and hatred.  The documentary contained many close-up images of hijab-clad girls set to sinister music, as well as slow-motion shots of so-called radical preachers and Muslim men praying in mosques. The message was that Muslim communities are isolating themselves from mainstream society. It gave the impression that Muslim parents who send their children to faith schools are exercising ‘voluntary apartheid’. We live in a world of many divides. Indeed, it would appear that divides are the norm rather than the exception.

The Panorama show was a confused and sensationalist piece of filmmaking. The Islamic Schools in the documentary were all rated ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, confirmed by their own presenter. To be honest, I didn’t find much weight in their arguments against the schools at all. Anti-Muslims sentiment spread by the media has led to increase violence and discrimination against Muslims in small suburbs and market towns. The attacks on Muslims go largely unnoticed by the media and politicians. Muslim schools protect Muslim children from the onslaught of Euro-Centrism, homosexuality, racism, drinking, drugs, incivility, anti-social behavior, teenage pregnancies and abortions and secular traditions. English is one of the most damaging subjects - reflects secular and immoral beliefs that contradict the view point of Islam. Romeo and Juliet of Shakespeare advocates disobeying parents and premarital relations. Speaking English does not promote integration into British society, and broaden opportunities. The whole world belongs to Muslims. A Muslim is a citizen of this tiny global village. He/she does not want to become notoriously monolingual Brit. He/she must be well versed in Standard English to follow the National Curriculum and go for higher studies and research to serve humanity. At the same time he/she must be well versed in Arabic, Urdu and other community languages to keep in touch with cultural roots and enjoy the beauty of literature and poetry.

No one is advocating the establishing of Sharia law in a non-Muslim country. But Muslims like Jewish people should be able to have their own inheritance laws, religious weddings and divorces according to their own beliefs. It was Muslims in their own lands who first allowed non Muslims to be able to practice their own laws and this was enshrined in Islamic law nearly 1400 years ago. It was Muslims who gave shelter to the Jews when they were thrown out of Europe during the inquisition and during pogroms. Muslims never burnt people alive or tortured them for their beliefs. Islam is not associated with denial of human rights - actually historically Islam provided documentation for human rights. It is absurd to believe that Muslim schools, Imams and Masajid teach Muslim children anti-Semitic, homophobic and anti-western views. It is dangerously deceptive and misleading to address text books and discuss them out of their historical, cultural and linguistic context. Muslims were already disproportionately being targeted by police with programmes such as the Prevent project. Focusing on Muslim schools for investigation would tell Muslim young people "you are different" and further alienate them. Singling out Muslim schools threatened to add to already "dangerous" levels of Islamophobia, which he compared to the amount of anti-Semitism in the 1920s and 1930s.

 It is not wrong to teach children that anti-social behaviour, drinking, drugs, homosexuality, sex before marriage, teenage pregnancies and abortions are western values and Islam is against all such sins. This does not mean that Muslim schools teach children to hate westerners, Jews and homosexuals. Extremism, homophobia and anti-Semitism are nothing to do with Islamic teachings and beliefs. Islam does not teach that Jews and Christians are pigs and monkeys. The government, Panorama and the Policy Exchange think-tank should concentrate on institutionally racist schooling and chicken racist teachers, the rising levels of attacks on teachers and the bullying of children; also the fact that society has rising levels of teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease and anti-social behavior. British education system does not take into account a child’s ethnicity, language, culture and faith. A child’s identity and heritage are core to who they are. It is precisely for these reasons that Muslims seek to encourage their children to go to Muslim schools and learn Islamic values and develop cultural, linguistic and spiritual identities, so that they can be decent, productive people, who have respect and care for others.

Iftikhar Ahmad


Why Labour hate the LibDems

Ever wondered why Labour has turned on the LibDems with such viciousness? It isn't the hurly-burly of hard politics, it's personal.

The answer is simple once you understand what the Labour Party is all about. It isn't a party with simple ideologies, indeed ideology gets in their way, its far deeper than that. Yes I know they claim to "identify with the poor", as one blogger once claimed, [and I still don't know what it means despite hours pondering] or want to look after the "working man" or "squeezed middle" or what other vacuous and meaningless slogans have been dreamed up by pollsters but these aren't ideologies that drive a decision making process.

No, Labour is about one thing and one thing only, as was pointed out by a leading Labour blogger on the much lamented House of Comments -Labour is a coalition of anti Tories. When I heard that it all dropped in to place, why all those hours over fox hunting, the scorched earth of the past few years where any spending would do if stopped the Tories winning power even if it fucked up the economy.

So, the LibDems biggest crime isn't the raising of student fees, how could it be as Labour set that one in motion? Or even AV which Labour would have entertained if it gave them an advantage. It isn't the spending cuts, Labour has as good as admitted they would have had to do the same. It isn't Free Schools; these are only one step removed from Academies.

No, the reason that Labour has turned on LibDems with such venom is that they let the Tories in, pure and simple, nothing to do with the policies and everything to do with the green eyed monster.

Bear that in mind whenever you hear a Labour spokesman and all will become clear.

A counter to the selfish baby boomers?

There's a very interesting letter in this weeks Economist which really gotme thinking about the best way to counter the selfisheness of the baby boomer generations before they bankrupt the country as they move in to the 3rd age. Before discussing the letter its worth looking at this idea about the selfish baby boomers, as set on by David Willetts in The Pinch and reviewed by Peter Oborne:

This generation - and I am ashamed to say that I belong to it [Me too] - has greedily destroyed the financial and social capital bequeathed to us by our parents.

And, as a result, we have squandered the inheritance we ought to have passed on to our children.

Here's how the Willetts thesis works. He says that in all societies there are three stages of life - childhood, maturity and old age.

During childhood and old age we are dependent on others. But during maturity - from our early 20s to our mid-60s - we do not merely provide for ourselves. We provide for the young and old, as well.

Willetts calls this the contract between generations.

The trouble is that the baby boomers - those of us aged between 45 and 63 today - have destroyed this age-old contract. We have looked after only ourselves.

There are two reasons for this. First, for the past three decades the baby boomers have been ascendant, and this has meant there have been an abnormally large proportion of people of working age.

As a consequence, we baby boomers have had to spend a lower proportion of our hard-earned cash looking after the young and the old than any previous generation.

As Willetts puts it: 'We have had an extraordinary demographic bonus over the past 25 years. There was a bulge of workers in the middle with no real increase in the number of pensioners and quite a low birth rate.' So we have had far more money to spend on foreign holidays, large houses, restaurants and other luxuries. Living standards have boomed. But now, the first of the baby boomers are starting to reach retirement age.

Soon there will be a much smaller working population - and a much larger number of retired people expecting to be paid for by a much smaller number of wealth creators.

Willetts calls this The Pinch  and it will squeeze tightest in 2030, by which time all the baby boomers will have retired.

This might be just manageable but for one extra and devastating factor. We baby boomers have been the most selfish generation that history has ever known.

We could have used our gigantic piece of demographic good fortune to build for the future. Instead, we have spent every last penny of our windfall gain.

Indeed, we have done even worse than that. We have incurred gigantic debts that will have to be paid off by future generations - who will already be reeling under the necessity of paying for the largest number of
pensioners in history.

That should give you the gist but there is one glairing example of our selfishness and it has been the cause of booms and busts since I can remember buying my first and yet we still venerate it: houses, and more specifically house prices. Despite all the pain of the past two years we still see stories about the need for house prices to continue to rise, but why? Or more precisiely Cui Bono?  Why the baby boomers of course.

How many of those baby boomers have used housing as a store of wealth that they plan to use when they retire? For years we have been told that a house is an investment [and this is where I have always disagreed with my own generation including some good friends] and that house prices will always rise. They need that rise more than ever now the baby boomers are approaching retirement and looking to sell and trade down, releasing that wealth. To understand why just look at what happens with some simple maths. A baby boomer with a house valued at £400,000 is looking to trade down to something around say £200,000, giving them a nest egg of £200,000. Lets say prices fall by 20% - they now have a house valued at £320,000 and their target house is now worth £160,000, giving them a nest egg of only £160,000, a loss of £40,000 in the baby boomers eyes.

Much better that prices rise by 20%, giving them a nest egg of £240,000. But who pays? Younger generations who now need to work harder and longer to afford the bigger house, a transfer of wealth to the baby boomers. And as such a huge demographic  baby boomers will scare politicians to death because they are more likely to vote and so we will see more efforts to keep house prices high through regulation, with planning permission being determined by locals aka NIMBYs as a current proposal. Baby boomers will also be in a position to demand higher benefits - free bus travel, higher pensions, fuel allownces, free BBC and a myriad other methods of transferring wealth (stealing?).

So what is this marvelous idea that might provide a check on those rapacious baby boomers($):

SIR – You talked about the significance of the elderly voting-age population in Japan as a factor in determining government transfers, such as pensions and health care (special report on Japan, November 20th). The median age of voters in Japan will reach 65 within the next 15 years. We should seriously consider giving children a vote and having their parents use it on their behalf. Parents with children under 18 would then control 37% of the vote.

Why should we give children a right to vote? Because intergenerational income distribution became a contentious public-policy issue with the establishment of public-pension systems. It may seem outrageous to extend the vote to children, but the extension of the franchise to women was also opposed. That historic change was achieved through the
democratic process and resulted in a dilution of the voting power of the male-only electorate. Greying populations require such a fundamental democratic change.

Reiko Aoki
Director Centre for Intergenerational Studies
Hitotsubashi University

Brilliant. OK, so there are a few down sides, but no more than when those children get to 18 anyway.

And if those new found voters have any sense they wil push for a Land Value Tax to force the baby boomers to allow house prices to become affordable or at least pay for their NIMBYism.

For more on Land Value Taxes follow Mark Wadsworth, a tireless campaigner for them if ever there was one.

Happy New Year

I haven't had the will to blog recently, mainly because I've been too busy on a very steep learning curve as I recently joined a Bridge Club and like many others the new  Government has raised the hackles as much
That doesn't mean I haven't had lots of thoughts on what's going on
around me, just that every time I sat at the computer I ended up
playing bridge.

Anyway, I've got myself across the systems we are playing and feel the need to do something else as I was getting stale with so much bridge, so its back to blogging. The hiatus means that i will be covering some old stories, but it will help clear my mind.

So with that I will wish you a Happy New Year and move on.