Supporting England

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has switched his allegiance to England following Scotland\’s exit.

"I will be supporting England," Brown said. "I think the victory over Australia was one of the great victories in rugby."

Gosh, thanks Gordo.

Iraqi Employees

God these people are shits. Our Lords and Masters. Prize, Grade A, bastards.

Yes, you can quote me on that.

So some people out here in Blogistan along with The Times have managed to get Gordon Brown to agree that there is indeed a moral case that those who worked for the British military in Iraq should not be left to be murdered by crazed religious lunatics. Good. That they had to be persuaded of this makes them dribbly bits, bastards, but not quite shits nor Grade A Prize Bastards.

Now they\’re quibbling over how long someone must have been working for us. Only those with 12 months service: doesn\’t matter that they\’re in danger of being murdered, tortured to death with power drills, having their eyes gouged out, no, only if they\’ve filled that little bureaucratic box do we have any moral responsibility to them.

That does make them shits and Grade A Bastards. The death is no less painful, the torture no less ghastly, the moral responsibility no less, just because someone put in 11 months and 30 days now is it?

Strange that a Son of the Manse, a child of the Kirk, cannot remember that the labourer is worthy of his hire. And we did hire them.

Anyone know how we can force a good dose of Ex-Lax into the body politic?

Better ideas are here.

Household Income

Following on from this morning\’s wonders about houshold income, I\’ve had a response. For those who didn\’t see it, I was wondering about this:


While the average household gross income has climbed over the past decade from £34,796 to £53,835, people have far less of that money to spend each month after they have paid essential bills.

That gross income looks very high indeed for the average household.

I\’ve had a response from the people who did the original report:


Average household income in 2005 was £49,335. This was calculated using ONS figures for the total gross income for the UK as a whole in 2005 and dividing this by the number of households in the UK in 2005. The ONS data for 1997 to 2005 was used to calculate a compound annual growth rate of 4.461%. This was used to calculate the 2007 estimation.

 The estimation part looks fine. But running these numbers backwards (24 million households times £50 k a year gives £1.2 trillion, roughly GDP) makes me think that they\’ve used GDP for "total gross income". Now technically you can do that to give an approximation. I\’ve forgotten the technical descriptions of GDP and trying to look them up doesn\’t give me what I want: the adjustments needed to give a more accurate figure. Aren\’t total household incomes equal to consumption equal to value added? Or do we need to adjust for retained profits, savings, etc? The perils of only knowing a little perhaps.

Anyway, that\’s how we get that very high figure, GDP divided by the number of households. It\’s high because it\’s the mean, not the median, and because, well, we don\’t normally define household income that way anyway.


You What?

And so the great herds of turbo badgers swept majestically down the slopes of our hillsides into the fertile valleys below, there to sweep across the great plains, go twice around the Wrekin and then apply for jobs in the very call-centres of our souls. But not once did such vicissitudes once deter us from our overwhelming desire  to pour lukewarm custard over the naked chiropodist held captive in the car park of The Pervert’s Appendage, for today is – as you should all know –


Screwing the Soldiers

Sadly, it\’s not just our own MOD that screws those it sends to fight:

I no longer believe in coincidences when it comes to stuff like this. Whoever wrote the order for 729 days knew precisely what he or she was doing.

No, I don\’t believe it\’s a coincidence either.


What Do We Do About Rising Sea Levels?

So we\’re told that rising sea levels (and in the SE of England, the ongoing sinking of the land) are going to lead to losses of land. Of farmland, of buildings, of the very ability of the species to survive (TM Al Gore). So what should we do about it?

In the most ambitious and expensive project of its type, the RSPB intends to puncture sea defences around Wallasea island, near Southend, and turn 728 hectares (1,800 acres) of farmland into a mosaic of saltmarsh, creeks and mudflats – making mainland Britain just a little bit smaller.

Er, breach the sea walls and invite that rising sea in.

Excellent, don\’t you think?

Household Disposable Income Down

So says a report from uSwitch:

In 1997, when Labour came to power, people were left with 34.5 per cent of their gross income once they had paid taxes, national insurance, mortgage or rent. Now they are left with 32.6 per cent, says a report by uSwitch, a price comparison website.

It is the latest survey to highlight how millions of households have failed to benefit from the strong economy because of rising taxes and escalating bills. Ernst & Young, the accountants, calculated this year that the average family had £838 left to spend each month, compared to £899 four years ago.

There\’s three things to say about this.

While the average household gross income has climbed over the past decade from £34,796 to £53,835, people have far less of that money to spend each month after they have paid essential bills.

That gross income looks very high indeed for the average household. Might they be talking about the mean rather than the median? Rolling around the back of my mind I have the idea that the median US household income is somewhere in the $40-$50k a year range and I really don\’t think that the UK is richer than the US, nor that (as an alternative explanation) the average UK household is more than twice the size of the average American one.

The second is that they\’re rather confusing two things:

Increases have hit four key areas in the past 10 years. Petrol — often the biggest cost for a family after their housing — has increased by 55 per cent and phone and internet bills have risen 77 per cent as millions more use broadband and mobile phones.

So there\’s a change in the composition of "essential spending" as well as a change in the prices.

Finally, the Treasury is probably correct here:

He said: "As a result of tax and benefit measures introduced by the Government, this year all households will be on average £1,000 a year better off in real terms and families with children will be on average £1,550 a year better off in real terms, compared to 1997."

For the original calculations don\’t seem to (although as I can\’t find the report I can\’t check) include benefits, only tax. But this is untrue:

A Treasury spokesman denied that Government tax policies had eaten into incomes.

Of course the tax policies have eaten into incomes. It\’s the benefit policies that might have amended this, but tax per se must eat into incomes.

But I think the biggest fault is in their headline figure for average household incomes. I really don\’t believe that that is the median. Median individual earnings are £26 k a year aren\’t they? And it is most certainly not true that the average household has two incomes at that median now, is it?

Yesterday\’s Australian Sports Column


THE simple fact is the Wallabies are a better rugby team than England…..

In the space of a few short weeks, England has gone from swaggering to staggering and now, with its last roll of the dice, the best it can come up with to defeat Australia is to pick a pack of bully boys and an endearingly earnest five-eighth who doesn\’t kick heads but goals instead…..

That\’s how it is shaping again tonight, although one senses a historic adjustment in the Wallabies\’ methods. Where in the past they were obliged to use hit-and-run tactics, tonight, boasting a scrum that even rival flanker Lewis Moody concedes may be the strongest Australia has assembled, they will engage England head-on. …..

That\’s not to say that\’s all they will do. There is considerably more to this Australian side than muscle. But the belief within the camp is that beyond the bully boys and Wilkinson, England doesn\’t have much at all…..

Hence, the quickest and most effective way of defeating England is to confront its two great strengths and nullify them.

Sounds simple. And if the Wallabies are anywhere near to achieving their often-stated aim of having the best pack in world rugby, they could indeed do the business tonight with considerable audacity and some alacrity……



To Spend is to Tax

Worth remembering that:

We should not be surprised by such profligacy. In 2001 Brown stated that the UK would borrow a total of £28bn between 2001 and 2006. He ended up borrowing £129bn during that period. So his "prediction" was more than £100bn astray.

It\’s not just the tax rises, it\’s also the rise in borrowings: and, even more than that, the rise in promises of future spending (on pensions and the like) which are not being accrued.

Future taxes have gone up by vastly more than current ones have.

Tom Watson Blogging

Re the previous post, I went and read a little of Tom Watson\’s blog. A most interesting comment re the speechwriter of Cameron\’s conference piece (oh, come on, you don\’t think he actually wrote it himself do you?):

His hair was supposed to be “crinkly” like a public school boy’s.

Is this something to do with "nappy headed \’ho\’s"? Or public schoolboys eat their crusts? The effects of too many showers after the rugby? What?

Will Hutton. Seriously Confused.

No, really, very seriously confused.

Labour could even have copied the ultra-capitalist Swiss and introduced a small wealth tax levied annually, including on super-rich foreigners living in Britain who enjoy the right to be considered \’non-domiciled\’ and so excused taxation on British income and assets.

Err, non-doms are not excused taxation on British income and assets. They\’re excused taxation on foreign income which they do not bring into the UK. Getting it 100% the wrong way around is pretty bad for a columnist, don\’t you think?

Rather, the take should be raised and the loopholes closed that let much property to be held offshore.

Now I\’m on slightly shakier ground here but I think that again Will has misunderstood the role of domicile here. Indeed, I think this is part of the very reason that we do distinguish between domicile and residence. So you\’re a UK citizen: you can\’t become a non-dom and still live in the UK. You actually have to give up UK citizenship and bugger off elsewhere. (If I get some of this wrong please do correct me.)

Now, if you are a UK citizen and you do bugger off elsewhere, you don\’t have to prove that you are resident elsewhere in order to show that you are non-resident in the UK. Just being out of the country for the requisite number of days in the tax year is enough.

However, to prove that you are not domiciled in the UK any more you do have to prove that you are domiciled elsewhere. That you\’ve got a new citizenship, that you really do live elsewhere and expect to die elsewhere and be buried there (is, I think, the normal formulation).

Now, any property that you own in your own name in the UK (yes, of course trusts can be used to disguise this) is, if you are non-domiciled and non-resident, not taxed by the UK as part of your estate. The assumption is that the other taxman gets his cut. But if you are non-resident but still domiciled then your UK property is indeed subject to inheritance tax.

As I say, I\’m on slightly shaky ground here as I\’m not a tax expert but that\’s what I think happens. And why would the law have been drawn up in this manner?  Why, so that death duties would apply to the great landed estates of the past. If the 4th Marquess of Chinlessness went off to Monaco in order to flee 98% income tax, that was one thing. But unless he then went on to become Monegasque then his 500,000 acres still faced death duties on his expiry and his heirs would have to sell up the great landed estate. That, I believe, was actually the point of devising the tax system this way.

If you want to change the whole set up about domicile and residency, fine, carry on: I\’m not sure that it really matters all that much either way. But it would be nice to see an admission that there\’s more to it than getting hands on some of The City money. It will also mean not getting hands on  some much older money (although this specific example doesn\’t count now as farmland doesn\’t pay IHT).

Back to Will\’s clear and obvious confusion:

Extraordinarily, inheritance tax is felt to be unfair. There is one good reason for this: more than 70 per cent of the take is paid by people inheriting estates of half a million pounds or less.

A point I have made often: the actual rich don\’t pay it. So what should we do?

Labour, of course, should have seen this coming. It should have protected its position by making the case for inheritance tax morally, socially and economically at the same time as designing the system so that it was much fairer. The eligibility threshold for inheritance tax should have been raised, while simultaneously making the rates sharply progressive.

Not so sure about the progressivity but still, OK; we should raise the threshold.

Which is why the emerging consensus that inheritance tax is unfair and should be reduced, if not abolished, (which Shadow Chancellor George Osborne exploited so successfully last week in his proposal to lift the threshold to £1m) is so odd.

Osborne\’s raised the threshold so that it is indeed only the rich that pay. Those with less than £500,000, what we might in these days of house pricing, call the middle classes, don\’t pay 70% of the take any more.

Excellent, so Osbourne has followed the advice of Anthony Giddens, Third Way Guru.

Yet Will thinks this is a bad idea.

Tell me, is it actually a requirement to be ill informed and contradictory to write on economics and taxation for The Observer? I thought those were afflictions reserved for blogs?







More Interpreters

Nick Cohen\’s column is all about the moral duty owed to those Iraqis who have worked for the British forces in Basra and environs. Good piece too:

Some leaks from the MoD say that asylum will be offered to only the 91 translators currently working with the British army. If true, Brown would be engaging in gesture politics at its most debased. What about interpreters who have retired and gone into hiding? What about the other staff? When even Basra\’s laundry girls have been pulled out of taxis and shot in the head for the crime of working for the army, it is laughable to pretend that a promise to a few interpreters fulfils Britain\’s obligations. Leaving debts of honour to one side, who will work for the armed forces, Foreign Office or Department for International Development in other conflict zones if they see Britain betraying its friends?

Other leaks say that hundreds will be rescued. Let\’s hope the spinners are being honest. On Tuesday, there\’s a meeting in the Commons organised by Richard Beeston of the Times, who has led the media campaign for these Iraqis, and Dan Hardie, a territorial army doctor who has mobilised the blogosphere. If Brown has the moral compass we hear so much about, he will make it a victory celebration rather than a protest rally.

For more details of the meeting, what to say to your MP tp get them to attend, how to get there yourself perhaps, read this.