Quick Question


The huge cost to the taxpayer of Labour\’s commitment to the private finance initiative since it came to power a decade ago is revealed by the Treasury in a report by MPs published today. It shows that Gordon Brown has committed future governments to pay back £170bn by 2032 to banks, investors and private entrepreneurs for more than 800 schemes for new hospitals, schools and prisons.

Does this number currently appear in the public accounts as a future liability? If not, why not? And will it be put into them in future?

Oh Dear

First flagged up by John B, used as an "And finally" item at the ASI, a little jokule that some have found not funny:

Amid the packed carriages, interminable delays and passengers listening to their MP3 players too loudly, her voice has been an oasis of calm, soothingly reminding passengers on the London Underground to "mind the gap". But the career of Emma Clarke, the voice of the tube, may have come to the end of the line.

London Underground has said it will not be offering the voiceover artist any more work, after she appeared to criticise the transport system in a newspaper interview.

If you didn\’t hear the announcements first time around, the G has transcripts of them all.

To prove the tube network was not devoid of humour, the spokesman added: "London Underground is sorry to have to announce that further contracts for Ms Clarke are experiencing severe delays."

Ho Ho.

Quite Right on the Euro

Ambrose Evans Pritchard isn\’t the only person who has been saying this:

My point is – and always has been – that launching the euro was the easy part. The test would be 1) whether countries with vastly different structures, trade patterns, wage bargaining systems, debt structures, sensitivities to interest rates, productivity growth rates, and historic inflation rates would diverge so far over time that this would threaten the viability of the system.

2) Whether EMU could weather a bad storm without single treasury and debt union to back it up.

3) Whether the eurozone bloc had the “solidarity characteristic of a nation” (the Bundesbank’s term) required for it to endure through bad times.

As Jon Livesey and others have pointed out on my last blog, the euro-zone is not an “optimal currency area” – OCA in the jargon.

I was saying it back in 2002 for example. Nothing\’s happened so far to make me change my mind.

Reinventing Welfare

So El Gordo has decided to have another stab at reinventing welfare.

Under the proposals, the detail of which was unveiled by Peter Hain, the Work and Pensions Secretary, those out of work and claiming benefits will be forced to undertake a"skills health check" after six months claiming Jobseekers Allowance to identify deficiencies in their basic numeracy, literacy or language needs.

Those who need further training but refuse to undertake it will face cuts in benefits.

The Government will also remove disincentives for Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants to study more than 16 hours a week. The so-called 16-hour rule – which restricts people over the age of 19 from claiming housing benefit if they study for more than 16 hours a week – will be scrapped.

I\’m not sure it\’s been all that carefully thought through. That last, for example, seems to open up housing benefit to university students once again, something abolished (from memory, at least) back in the early 80s.

But I have a feeling that the biggest wails will come from the likes of Polly T. How could anyone be so cruel as to reduce benefits?

At which point I would suggest she goes and talks to her mate, Richard Layard. When I emailed her about this a few weeks back she insisted that he couldn\’t be involved with anything as hurtful and cruel as the Wisconsin Reforms (which this quite closely parallels). The only problem here is that the entire idea of restructuring welfare in this manner, of forcing people back into the potential labour force, if not actually back into work, comes directly from Richard Layard\’s work in the 1980s.

People should not be allowed to fester on the scrapheap of long term unemployment: they need, with a mixture of carrots and sticks, to at least attempt to re-engage with the world of work and or training.

Now I agree that you and I, along with many others, would be a great deal more radical. But if Polly does start to criticise all of this it\’s going to be really rather fun. The social democrat criticising a social democratic (both Polly and Layard were SDP members) proposal to remove some of the disincentives of a welfare system with an unlimited times span for benefits.

I await developments with interest!

Update. Christ, that didn\’t take long. Polly:

This time his peace offerings were a third runway for Heathrow, nuclear power stations and docking the benefits of the recalcitrant.


Labour and Newcastle

There\’s been earlier problems for Labour in Newcastle you know.

Gordon Brown has been plunged into a damaging sleaze row as the party donations scandal threatened to engulf two Cabinet ministers.

Political donations in return for planning permissions (allegedly)?

Anyone remember T Dan Smith? John Poulson?

One of the echoes of this current scandal is that the father of David Abrahams, Bernie Abrahams, would certainly have known at least the former.

No, not massively important, just interesting.


Yes, She\’s Right…

She is indeed featured here.

The Oxford Union debating society have invited Nick Griffin and David Irving to speak, despite the concerns of our local police and the city council, the student union and the Jewish and Muslim societies. I fully intend to be joining the demonstration outside the Union on St Michael’s Street from 7pm this evening. Doubtless there are some who won’t agree with me (I fully expect to be featured on Tim Worstall’s or the Devil’s Kitchen blogs later today, which will inevitably be followed by an onslaught of disagreeable comments).

Now boys and girls, play nice here. If disagreeable means not agreeing with Ms. Bance, that is of course fine. But being disagreeable just for the sake of being disagreeable isn\’t. Not when we go and play on someone else\’s property it isn\’t.

Of course she\’s entirely correct in this:

But I would just point out that having the right to freedom of speech doesn’t mean having the right to be invited to speak at a private members’ club.

Indeed it doesn\’t, even I would insist that it doesn\’t.

I would insist however that freedom of speech absolutely includes the right of a private members\’ club to invite whoever they should wish to come and speak to them. Which would appear to be what Ms. Bance is off to demonstrate against this evening.

Ho hum.

CBI Climate Change Report


Yet the carbon footprint of our economy is larger than that. After taking into account the carbon emitted to produce the imports we buy, as well as the goods and services we export, it increases by at least 10 per cent.

This is the level of logical thought our Titans of Industry are capable of?

We could, if we wanted, add in the emissions from our imports, as they are connected with consumption here. We could also, if we were so minded, add in the emissions of our exports, as they are connected with production here.

But what we can\’t do is add both in. The emissions in our imports are counted in the production budgets of elsewhere: similarly, the production emissions of our exports are counted in the consumption budgets of elsewhere.

One or the other, not both.

Amandaism of the Day

….and probably linked to rising rates of cancers in both men and women.

Err, which reality is Ms. Marcotte living in? As we all know, age adjusted cancer rates are falling (and as we all also know, age adjusted is the way you should measure cancer incidence).

Do Fascists Have a Right To Free Speech?

The issue basically comes down to this question: Are fascists entitled to free speech?


Next question?


The whole point of free speech is that people who believe odious claptrap will have their views subjected to vigorous debate and shown up for precisely what they are. Sweeping them under the carpet is nothing like as effective – there\’s no disinfectant like sunlight, and it\’s nice to see my old alma mater taking on the dirty but oh-so-necessary job of debunking both men in public.

Just Where Do You Buy a Gibbet?

You know, that Iraqi interpreters thing? The one where those people who had worked for us in Iraq were and are at risk of being murdered for having done so? And the way in which the Government took several months to agree to do what they already had to in international law: provide them with asylum?

Read Dan Hardie here.

It would appear that the intended policy of Her Majety\’s Government is to make sure that they\’re all killed off before they can navigate the bureaucracy.

So, just where can I buy a gibbet? It would be worth dynamiting Marble Arch to get a few set up at the old Tyburn Cross and hoisting those responsible into them.

For the edification of the children, of course.

Nice to Get The Guardian On Board

You never know, perhaps there actually is a real liberal buried somewhere in The Guardian:

It is only by replacing narrow self-interest with the enlightened variety, that humans stand any chance of dealing with climate change.

Well quite, enlightened self interest being what Adam Smith was talking about two centuries and more ago. So we\’re off on the path of creating a classically liberal state, where we all act out of enlightened self interest, are we? Of course we hope so, just odd to see the rallying cry come from The G.


We adjusting for inflation here or not?

Cotton is trading at 53 cents a pound. It fetched 30 cents in 1860.

1860 New York prices appear to be around 12-13 cents a pound, another estimate is 15 cents for 1857.

Given the inflation rate over the past 150 years it\’s difficult to see it coming out at 30 cents in any way at all. Then again, if we\’re not adjusting fo inflation, it does show that cotton is extremely cheap compared to what it was: as you would expect, given the mechanisation and increase in yields over the time period.

Super Lorries

Errm, has anyone actually thought this through?

Superlorries weighing 60 tonnes and measuring 80 feet in length could soon be hitting the roads as part of Government plans to cut down on costs and carbon emissions.

Every time we\’ve had an increase in the allowable weight of lorries on UK roads imposed upon us by the EU (and all previous ones have been, whether this one is I don\’t know)  we\’ve had arguments about the costs of upgrading the bridge and road network to cate to them. It slightly worries me that there is no mention of such costs here.

Oooh, Lovely, a Donations Scandal!

Now isn\’t this interesting?

The Electoral Commission has asked Labour to explain how David Abrahams was able to give almost £400,000 to the party without his name appearing on its register of donors as the law requires.

Mr Abrahams, a property developer, has admitted covertly donating money to Labour by giving it to two of his employees who then passed it the party.

Disclosure laws say anyone donating money to a party on behalf of someone else must declare that person\’s identity at the time.

Well, of course, it\’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, isn\’t it? So this £400,000 will in fact be forfeit to The Crown (in the form of the Treasury) just as that donation to UKIP was because the donor was not on the electoral register. Won\’t it….I mean of course it will. Who could doubt that there is a level playing field?

Mr Abrahams, the son of a former Lord Mayor of Newcastle, is a well-known figure in Labour circles, and attended Tony Blair\’s farewell speech in Sedgefield when he stepped down as Prime Minister in June.

He says he made the donations to Labour via Mr Ruddock and Ms Kidd because he did not want to attract publicity.

He said: "I\’m a member of the Labour Party and have been for about 40 years; since I was 15.

"I have always been fortunate enough to be able to make substantial donations to several charitable organisations as well as to the Labour Party for a number of years.

"But I am a very private person and I did not want to seek publicity.

"I gifted money to my friends and colleagues so they could make perfectly legal donations on my behalf.

"Donors to the Labour Party get a lot of publicity and I did not want that.\’"

Gifted Mr. Abrahams? Gifted did I hear you say? And I do hope that the appropriate gift taxes were declared and paid upon these transfers? As we all know, you\’re allowed to make gifts of up to £2,500 a year to a specific person, above that amount there\’s a suspicion that you might be avoiding inheritance tax as and when the time comes. So such gifts need to be registered (don\’t they?) so that the appropriate taper relief can be applied as and when you keel over.*

We wouldn\’t want to find out that you were in breach of tax law as well as that upon political donations now, would we?

*This probably isn\’t correct in detail but it is broadly. Any tax experts out there like to comment?