A By-Election Thought

Labour is persisting with a high-risk strategy of class warfare in Crewe & Nantwich in a desperate attempt to avoid losing the by-election and further destabilising Gordon Brown’s troubled leadership.

Labour leaflets distributed over the weekend showed Edward Timpson, the Conservative candidate, standing outside Crewe station with a top hat digitally superimposed on his head. It was later replaced with a second leaflet in which Mr Timpson was silhouetted out amid claims that Labour did not have permission to use the picture of Mr Timpson.

The leaflets come days after a Labour circular showed images of the Conservative candidate’s “mansion” house and a spoof Tory “application form”. The leaflets, which have dismayed some ministers, posed questions such as, “Do you live in a big mansion house?” and, “Do you think regeneration is adding another wing to your mansion?” with large red ticks next to them. The theme is repeated prominently on Labour’s campaign website.

Mr Timpson has also been ambushed by Labour activists in top hats and tails calling themselves the “Tarporley Toffs”, a reference to a genteel Cheshire village associated with country sports near where he lives. His home is 13 miles from Crewe.


Labour are hoping to contrast this with their candidate, Tamsin Dunwoody, the daughter of the former MP, Gwyneth, who they have billed as a “fighter, who’ll stand up for Crewe and Nantwich”.

He may have indeed inherited all sorts of things, money and privilege amongst them.

It\’s also true that he\’s not attempting to inherit a seat in the legislature.

If one were truly vile one might ask Tamsin how the mourning is going.

An Answer to Polly

You know this argument that she regularly trots out? That we\’re all rabid lefties really, concerned with equality, relative poverty, egalitarianism and the rest, we\’re just mislead by those rapacious press barons who thrust vilely right wing opinions down our throats?

That PollyLand is what we really desire, we\’re just suffering from false consciousness brought on by our reading habits?

Today in The Guardian in defence of their highly anti-Boris coverage just before the elections:

British newspapers are by nature, habit and tradition partisan; in leaders and opinion pieces, writers wear their hearts on their sleeves. It follows that readers choose newspapers that reflect their own views: "Every newspaper … is calculated for a particular set of readers only; so that if each set were to change its favourite publication for another, the communication would produce disgust and dissatisfaction to all," said John Walter in 1785, in the inaugural edition of the Times or the Daily Universal Register as it was then known.

Slightly torpedoes Poll now, doesn\’t it?

Newspapers chase the prejudices of their readers, not cause them.

Hey, if it works as a defence for the Guardian, it works for everyone else, right?

An Empirical Question

Does anyone actually know the answer?

Starting here.

Via email I am told that:

What\’s it like being a total, and I mean TOTAL  asshole?
Most EU residents have their deposit accounts in Euros, you dumb schmuck. Hoo boy, and they let you vote. Furthermore, you jerk, most interest earned by EU residents in Switzerland is from bonds, mostly Eurobonds or USD. But not CHF, that\’s for sure.
Don\’t get confused with the bank valuation statement being in CHF, merely for the bank\’s management fee calculation.

You have no idea what you talking about, so why don\’t you stick with cooking  recipes on your blog, you moron.

So, the question I\’d love to know the answer to is, for EU residents who have their money parked in Switzerland, and whose interest is thus subject to the EU with holding tax, what percentage of such holdings are in fact denominated in €?

Anyone know?

Oooooh, Tee Hee, Tee Hee Indeed.

So, we get a barnstorming column from Jackie Ashley (Mrs. Andrew Marr) about how appallingly the Pentagon manipulated the press over the Iraq war.

If business correspondents want star access, they have to mind their language and treat the City barons with deference and respect. They, not the military or the Ministry of Defence, are the power that our democracy never really talks about.

Possibly, I\’d not argue that the quality of business journalism is perfect, that it could not be improved.

But the real joy is that the G\’s subs have noted the, umm, incongruity, of the argument she uses. The headline: 

Beware cosy deals between politicians and their pundits

Well, yes indeed, Jackie, Andrew, Polly and all the rest do indeed need to mind their language and treat politicians with deference and respect for:

So what are the darker messages for us from this American scandal? I was struck by the way in which the deal between the analysts, the TV bosses, the Pentagon and – behind them all – the military contractors, never needed to be explicit. The Pentagon didn\’t need to offer cash, or lean on anyone. The TV networks did not ask too much about their experts\’ sources of information, or their outside interests. It was all nods and winks. Does this begin to sound familiar? It wasn\’t cash for peerages. It was propaganda for access. But isn\’t the underlying structure – you do me a favour, I\’ll see you right, while neither of us says a word – just the same?

The biter bit I think, no?

Of course, it is obligatory to end such a discussion of morals in the British press with the following quote:

"You cannot hope to bribe or twist thank God! The British journalist. But, seeing what the man will do unbribed, there\’s no occasion to." – Humbert Wolfe

The Real Reason for ID Cards

I think Phillip Johnston might have nailed it here.

A valedictory report on the project said: "The National Identity Register proposed as part of the Home Office Identity Cards Programme will deliver many of the CIP benefits… by effectively acting as the UK adult population register."

Shorn of much of its security paraphernalia, that is what the ID scheme now is. It will fulfil an aim of British public policy since the 16th century. The Tudors wanted to set up a population register, and another failed attempt was made in 1753, when it was proposed to take an annual local count of population, and a record of all marriages, births and deaths. The idea was never pursued and Britain instead moved to a census as a way of counting the population.

But the population register concept was picked up in countries like Sweden, where everyone has a unique personal number (UPN) allocated at birth. For instance, 454010-1488 is a woman born on April 10, 1945 with the individual number 148 (an even number denotes a woman) and an anti-fraud check digit 8. All administrative records relating to this person carry the UPN from birth until death.

Politically, it seems peculiar that the Government did not define this whole exercise in the context of a population register from the start, rather than as the imposition of an identity card with all the attendant civil liberties connotations.

It would have sounded less sinister than an ID database and would have been far cheaper. A feasibility study for the CIP estimated it would cost £13 million to develop a register, £240 million to implement it and £25 million a year to run.

Given the gradual removal of the security walls around the proposed ID database, it is clear that this scheme has nothing to do with protecting our identities. It is about setting up a glorified population register to keep track of us.

Those who think the Government will scrap the ID cards are mistaken, since its main purpose is to establish a population database. This is also why it will eventually be compulsory to join in. You should start working out your UPN now.

If that\’s what they actually wanted (in reality, a national insurance number database that is accurate) why didn\’t they just do that in the first place?

Ambrose E-P

Hmm, global slump coming. Not that he\’s ever been optimistic mind, but this does seem exceptionally gloomy. But you pick your pundit and believe who you wish at this point really. One point:

The Bush rescue package – $800 in rebate cheques per household – has been rendered null and void by the latest spike.

I really don\’t see where that $800 number comes from.

How Much Will You Get?
Qualifying single filers (AGI less than $75,000) will get rebates of up to $600. Qualifying couples (AGI less than $150,000) will get rebates of up to $1,200, plus $300 per dependent child, with no maximum on the number of eligible children.

Persons who owe no income taxes, but earned at least $3,000 in income from Social Security and veterans disability will get rebate checks of $300 for individuals and $600 for couples.



Defending Mandy

Yes, really, defending Peter Mandelson.

The face of the European Commissioner for Trade now adorns thousands of placards and "Stop Mandelson" posters as Irish opposition to the EU treaty grows ahead of a referendum next month.

Irish farmers and No campaigners have claimed that world trade negotiations for the EU, conducted by Mr Mandelson, would slash farm incomes and lead to mass rural unemployment.

Mr Mandelson is unapologetic about his role in World Trade Organisation talks to cut "protectionist" agriculture subsidies, such as those defended by Irish farmers.

Yes, we do want to reduce (reduce only, for abolishment is of course not a political possibility) the distortions caused by those protectionist policies. So at least in principle, Mandelson is saying the right things.

Of course, if he sets out his stall in such a cack handed manner that he also goes on to provoke a No vote in the Irish referendum, this would also be a marvellous result.

So, well done all round really.

Theft, Addiction and Prison

The guidelines say: "Many offenders convicted of acquisitive crimes are motivated by an addiction, often to drugs or gambling. This does not mitigate the seriousness of the offence but an offender\’s dependency may properly influence the type of sentence."

They suggest that rather than a prison term, "it may sometimes be appropriate to impose a drug rehabilitation requirement or an alcohol treatment requirement as part of a community order or a suspended sentence order in an attempt to break the cycle of addiction and offending, even if an immediate custodial sentence would otherwise be warranted".

Seems sensible enough, if the aim is to stop a recurrence of the theft then dealing with the addiction seems logical enough.

Patrick Mercer, a Tory member of the Commons home affairs committee, said: "Rehabilitation can go on in prison. I don\’t see why these are mitigating factors."

This is also true, it can…..but does it?

The little I\’ve heard on the subject implies that addictions get worse inside, not better, specifically, that heroin is easier to get and to use inside than cannabis is. So prison really isn\’t the place where rehabilitation does in fact happen.

Anyway, these are only changes to the sentencing guidelines: judges and magistrates still get to deal with each individual case on its own merits, as of course they should.

MEPs\’ Expenses Claims

Lovely story in the News of the World about MEPs\’ expenses.

Here for a right old bashing of Tom Wise (I\’m told by those in the know that at least one of the reasons he left UKIP was so that he might continue to avail himself of some of these possibilities).

Here for a look at some Tories and others.

I also hear from those in the know that the NOTW team couldn\’t find any UKIP MEPs abusing the system in the same way.  I know very well, for example, that the airline ticket scam is not allowed for those in the party.

Not that all of this is all that new of course. The Social Affairs Unit published a guide to how to work the system just after the last elections.

There is of course only one thing left of interest: who helped the NOTW girl to get that job in Brussels in the first place?

Beats me for sure.


Because Of, Because Of

I don’t believe I waste anywhere near £600 worth of food a year in my kitchen, but even if I did I wouldn’t be at all ashamed. For one thing such waste is as nothing compared with the armfuls of unnecessary, nondegradable, landfill-guzzling waste that I throw out each week in the form of supermarket packaging. The squandering of a few mouldy pears is hardly to be compared to the unavoidable waste of the plastic box, pear-shaped internal plastic mouldings and sealed plastic covering in which they arrived.

While this specific example might be a little extravagant, the very reason that you waste little food is because of the packaging in which your food arrives. As that famed Professor of Garbology pointed out in the PJ O\’Rourke book, Mexicans use much less packaging that USians, but throw away more food.

Anyone See The Problem Here?

Under the plans, mothers who successfully claim they deserve more money for child support will also be able to claim a share in any profits their ex-partners make from selling assets – even those acquired long after the divorce. And authority will be given to civil servants to raid the father’s bank account and withdraw lump sums.

Civil servants now have direct access to your bank account?

No, no, nothing could go wrong, could it?

Aaaargh! Shock, Horror!

A time warp of 1970s sexist attitudes is driving women in their late thirties from careers in science and technology and undermining key sectors of the economy, according to an international study.

Researchers claim to have discovered a “hidden brain drain” as women opt out when facing a choice between family life and pushing for promotion at work.

The majority choose their children and alternative careers instead of struggling with the hurdles of a macho “lab coat culture” with long hours, old boys’ networks and the risk of sexual harassment.

Women have choices! Quick, stamp it out!

Public Choice Economics

To understand the indifference of Burma\’s military rulers to the suffering of cyclone Nargis survivors, look no further than the large gold lettering on the gates of the army\’s officer training school.

It proclaims the young officers to be \’the Triumphant Elite of the Future\’, which sums up the attitude of the men who have run Burma for 46 years and regard themselves as above the people, with the perpetual right to tell them what to do. It\’s much the same in Zimbabwe where Robert Mugabe\’s recent campaign slogan was \’Get behind the fist\’ with a picture of his, firmly clenched.

Mugabe\’s message – that his opponents are traitors to the liberation movement and not true Zimbabweans – was clear and those not behind the fist are liable to be crushed by it. In winning the war against white domination, he regards his Zanu-PF party as also having won the right to rule indefinitely.

The two regimes have much in common besides decades in power and a deep-seated paranoia. The crisis in Burma lays bare how both regard their own survival, and enrichment, as paramount, no matter how many of their citizens die along the way. It\’s a common trait in authoritarian regimes. The Burmese army doesn\’t really think it is better able to deliver aid than the World Food Programme. But the regime is fearful of allowing in hordes of foreigners from countries it blames for Burma\’s problems because that would be an admission of its own failings and limitations.

Well, yes, all true.

But the great insight of public choice economics is that all governments are like this: it\’s only a matter of degree. Do we think that every member of the House of Commons is there for the selfless struggle to better the lives of their constituents? That every Ministerial decision is made solely with the benefits to the population in mind? That there are no MPs, no Miinisters, there for the pleasures and aggrandisement it gives them, and them alone?

Quite, they\’re all at it. It\’s a matter of degree.

And that\’s what those boring things like civil liberties, laws about what they may not do to us, are all about. Limiting their ability to do as they wish for themselves at our expense. Without them, no, of course Britain would not turn into Burma overnight….but the path would be open and in time, it would happen.