Dear Mr. Pierce

The lack of adequate government funding for the arts is a major problem.

I\’m afraid you\’ve fallen at the first hurdle. That there is any government funding for the arts is a major problem.

Yet, instead of acknowledging this and fighting for a better deal, the Arts Council started wittering on about "relative excellence" and value for money.

If there is to be such funding you object to its being spent in the most efficient manner possible?

But we know why there was a capitulation yesterday. Not because the Government and Arts Council saw the error of their penny-pinching, target-driven ways. They gave in because Dame Judi and Sir Ian, and the other luvvies, pack a powerful punch in the media.

Indeed, it\’s us the taxpayers being robbed to pay those who have celebrity. It\’s easier for the politicians to pay the blackmail than it is to tell them to go swivel.

As you point out, those who cannot get onto the front page of the newspapers with their ransom demands do not get them paid.


I think there might be one or two people out there in the blogosphere with something to say about this:

The pathetic spectacle of Derek Conway, greedy, on the take and humiliated, will not be the last such abuse of taxpayers\’ money.

The problem stems from MPs\’ belief that they deserve an entourage.

I would concede an MP needs a secretary, and am happy for that to be his spouse – for if the spouse doesn\’t work hard for the MP, the MP may soon be out of a job.

But why do they need research assistants? MPs never used to have them: they just had their secretaries get information from the House of Commons Library.

What research was young Conway, or his catamite, doing? I am unclear what learned pamphlets the disgraced MP has published on the basis of this work, or even speeches illuminated by it.

The way forward is a massive cut in allowances. If MPs need advisers, let their parties pay for them. Taxpayers are put upon enough without having to fund such swindles.

These folks perhaps.

At least one of that duo did the work that led to Owen Patterson\’s plans for the reform of fisheries. That is, the only economically sensible plan (and one which of course had no hope of actually being adopted) which has been proposed to reform the Common Fisheries Policy: for it was the only one which recognised what the problem actually was, a Commons Tragedy and one which could thus only be solved by the allocation or management of property rights.

I don\’t know about you but I\’m absolutely delighted that taxpayers\’ funds are used to come up with such obviously sensible proposals. Beats anything that\’s coming out of other parts of the apparat.


Up to two thirds of people claiming incapacity benefit are not entitled to the state handout, the Government\’s new welfare adviser warns today.

Ya Think?

Anybody at all who has looked at these figures knows that Incapacity Benefit has been a parking place for long term unemployed.

I\’m not sure about the rules now but a few years ago I remember asking someone running a successful football blog why he didn\’t take advertising. The answer was that even the modest (he might have made £100, £150 a month) income would have threatened his Incapacity and other benefits. As those included housing benefit etc it simply wasn\’t worth the risk.

That, I think, is the worst part about the benefit system: it\’s so damn hard to climb out of the dependency gradually. There\’s a huge swathe of income levels from paid work where disposable income can actually fall.

Just another are where a cbi can help.

Oh, Mark, Please!

Good Grief!

I think we should go further, instead of taxing profits only when they become excessive, we should recognise that oil reserves are a gift of nature. The distribution of the wealth derived from their exploitation should reflect this and be spread among all citizens, not disproportionately in favour a minority of the already wealthy. A large proportion of Shell\’s profits arise because oil companies are allowed cheap and sometimes free access to oil reserves when they should be paying the rest of us for the privilege.

Can we try and drag ourselves into the 20 th century at least, if the 21 st is proving too difficult? Are you not aware that everyone already does this? Petroleum royalties? Special rates of corporation tax?

The UK appears to have charged the oil companies some £ 63 billion for precisely that, the gift of nature, distributing that wealth amongst all citizens. (That number may well be off as the tax regime ain\’t that simple, see here.)

It\’s one thing to insist upon higher taxation, quite another to insist that we immediately need to bring in a system which has already been extant since, ooh, say, the Petroleum (Production) Act of 1934.


Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary.

And Brendan Barber, all round idiot. From the introduction to the TUC report on the tax gap:

Few issues can be more important to a modern democracy than the integrity of its tax system. The Budget is a highlight of the political year because it is the point at which Parliament allows government to continue. Without money, there could be no state and no society.

Sigh, the State and society are not synonymous. Society existed before the State and exists independently of it now.

We may well need a State, we may well make our lives better by having one (certainly, that\’s my view) rather than not, but society and the State are not the same thing. Further, society exists independently of Parliament, government and the appropriations of the tax system and the disbursements of the spending apparatus.

For example, let us take the Trades Union Congress. This is most definitely part of society: amongst other things it is the expression of that human right, the one to free association. Yet it is not dependent upon the State, is not fed with funds from the appropriations bills (well, it is in minor ways but that\’s not the point) and is a creature neither of the government nor Parliament.

Off you go and stand on the naughty step please Brendan, just ask Polly to shift over a little.

Et Tu?

Times Leader:

These wilderness areas have remained relatively untouched until now, because of the enormous cost involved in extracting oil from them. But a combination of higher oil prices, new technology and American demand has made them profitable.

Please lads, look up the word "fungible". It isn\’t American demand driving the exploitation of tar sands. It\’s global demand.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has already declared that California will not import fuel whose production generates too many greenhouse gases over its life cycle, thus ruling out the use of tar sands oil.

Again, please look up the word "fungible". It doesn\’t actually matter what Arnie says. If traditional oil goes to California then others will consume the crude from tar sands. Doesn\’t make any damn difference at all.

The Canadian Goverment has refused to cap production. It will not clamp down on this lucrative trade unless the US, its main trading partner, changes its tune. The next president must make this a priority.

Can I recommend the word "fungible" again?


An explosion in an unlicensed Turkish fireworks factory killed at least 20 people, injured more than 100 and caused the five-storey building to collapse.

Which idiot set that up? I thought everyone* knew how to build a fireworks factory? Very strong walls, a very light roof and definitely no more than one story high….


* Well, everyone has read Terry Pratchett, haven\’t they?

Polly on Taxation.

"The question between now and the next election is whether Gordon Brown will go on shovelling more money to the grossly rich in the futile hope of appeasing them"

A delightful potted version of Polly\’s world view. Brown isn\’t shovelling more money to the grossly rich: he\’s not taking as much of it as Polly would like.

There\’s a rather crucial difference between not taxing someone and actually handing tax money over to them.

To equate the two, to say that not taxing someone is the same as handing them money is to make the assumption that it all belongs to the State and we only get to keep whatever the State doesn\’t need.

Polly might well think that way but most of us don\’t. Tax is a necessary evil, something we hand over to pay for the things that must be done both collectively and with the coercive powers of said State. It isn\’t the State\’s by right, we being allowed to keep whatever crumbs it allows us.

Labourites Warn

On how to win the next election:

The statement says that economic competence is not enough;

No, but it would be an interesting start, don\’t you think? Going into an economic slowdown wih no room to lower taxes, increase spending or increase borrowing isn\’t, even in Keynesian terms, evidence of economic competence.

Pretty Impressive

When one great great uncle did finally make some money as chairman of the Ashanti goldfields in South Africa, he didn\’t share it among his nieces and nephews.

No, really. Ashanti is in Ghana* so making money out of it in South Africa is pretty good going.


* The merger with Anglo of South Africa was in 2004 and that\’s not what she\’s talking about.

Why Wait?

As I sat down after making my remarks, the leader of the bloc to which Tory MEPs are allied, the European People\’s Party (EPP), rose to say that he\’d run out of patience with me, and that he wanted the EPP to expel me.

Chatting to me afterwards in the aisle, he said: "I don\’t care if you make your protest for a referendum in Britain. But you will not do it from the floor of the parliament as a member of my party". Fair enough, I said: there did seem to be some serious ideological differences between us. "Not differences, incompatibilities," he replied. If anyone was still wondering why David Cameron wants to leave the EPP, there is your answer.

Why not leave now?

Shell\’s Profits

Unite joint general secretary Tony Woodley called the profits "obscene", adding: "Greedy oil companies should be asked to contribute for the common good." The AA said some of the windfall profits should be used to improve conditions for the motorist.

Providing the motorist with the fuel to power her car isn\’t enough?

Mr Van der Veer pointed out UK Treasury taxes account for well over 50pc of the price of petrol at the pump, and that the vast bulk of the Anglo-Dutch company\’s profits were made outside Britain. Most of its earnings come from exploration and production, not from UK petrol sales.

But they are paying tax on those profits made elsewhere. Some $18 billion indeed. That\’s enough isn\’t it?