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Making Politicians Behave

Jamie Whyte has an interesting idea:

When no amount of prior regulation reduces the quantity of subsequent regulation, it is clear that politicians\’ incentives to legislate are disconnected from any good that their laws might do. How can this preposterous situation be remedied?

An attempt is currently before New Zealand\’s Parliament. The Regulatory Responsibility Bill aims to improve the quality of legislation by specifying principles of responsible regulation and requiring the sponsor of any new Bill to report on its compliance with these principles.

The principles are simple and uncontroversial but still sufficient to rule out most recent British legislation. For example, one states that legislation should not diminish the rule of law by creating uncertainty as to whether actions are lawful. That would dispose of Britain\’s “incitement to hatred” laws. Another states that legislation should not diminish freedom of contract. That would rule out most employment legislation, which is little more than a conspiracy against freedom of contract. And the principle that a Bill should not be passed into law if its goal could better be achieved without it would do for almost all other legislation of recent years.

Alas, the Bill does not go far enough. It provides no extra-parliamentary mechanism for ensuring adherence to its principles, explicitly ruling out judicial review. The shame of publishing a report about their misguided, principles-violating legislation is supposed to keep politicians honest.

As the first comment points out, that mechanism was in fact the House of Lords.

But the general thrust seems sound. If we cannot have my preferred solution to politicians (hang them all and let God sort them out) then can we at least make them irrelevant?

Just Clean That Up For You, Shall I?

Belgium will set an uneviable record tomorrow for the longest period in its 177-year history without a government, after divisive election results in June.

Corrected it reads:

Belgium will set an enviable record tomorrow for the longest period in its 177-year history without a government, after divisive election results in June.

Political Machinations

Note that there\’s not even a pretense at providing a public interest explanation:

GORDON BROWN is preparing to announce curbs on spending by political parties which will prevent Tory candidates from gaining an advantage in marginal seats.

His first Queen’s speech this week, in which the prime minister will set out his legislative programme for the coming year, will signal a party funding bill to close a legal loophole that has allowed the Conservatives to splurge money on key constituencies in the run-up to the next general election.

Ministers have expressed concern that millions of pounds being provided to Tory candidates by Lord Ashcroft, the former party treasurer and one of the party’s biggest backers, is damaging Labour’s chances in marginal seats.

Just damaging Labour\’s chances is sufficient reason to change the law. Who now would want to deny the truth of public choice economics? That politicians do things which are good for politicians?

State Funding of Political Parties.

Such a good idea, isn\’t it?

Another effective control mechanism is that the Kremlin dictates access to state funding for political parties, and also how much airtime they have on state-controlled television and coverage in the main state-controlled newspapers.

In order to get funds and media exposure, a party must give the Kremlin a firm assurance that it will not discuss controversial issues, such as state corruption, or the way the ruling elite uses the courts to intimidate its opponents. Once that assurance is forthcoming, the party will receive money for its campaign and its candidates will be allowed to appear on television.

Polly on the Electoral System

No, I don\’t agree with her but then that\’s nothing unusual. But it is disagreement, not that what she\’s saying is obviously wrong or inane.

Except for just one minor point:

But why so much hot indignation on Scottish MPs\’ votes or a referendum on insignificant issues in the EU treaty

Err, given that 80% of our law now comes from Brussels, don\’t you think that that actually is the most important question?

That Tory Poster

Over at the Devil\’s.

National Citizen Service for every school leaver.

The Tories are still advocating this? That every young adult must spend compulsory time as a helot of the State?

A Pity About Joe Biden

It\’s a pity he\’s not going to get anywhere really for this is really rather good, about Rudy Giuliani:

He only uses three words in a sentence: A noun, a verb, and 9/11



Why Do People Buy Politicians?

Why, eh?

According to estimates from the CBO, supports for sugar in the House bill could cost taxpayers from $750 million to $850 million over the next five years. The eagerness of members of Congress to please their sugar daddies is not surprising. Campaign donations from the sugar industry have topped $3 million in each of the last four political cycles.

Because they\’re so damn cheap, that\’s why.

50 x (that\’s 50 times, not 50%) return on investment.

Hang them all.


Kevin Rudd: Earwax Gourmet

Here\’s the video of Kevin Rudd eating his earwax in the Australian Parliament:


As Sam Leith points out:

For at a stroke, a microsecond nibbling earwax threatens to eclipse a lifetime of hard political graft. Is this fair? Is this reasonable? No. Mr Rudd has experienced what could turn out to be his Neil-Kinnock-falling-in-the-sea moment.

There are certain mistakes you can make as a politician that do not, in the long run, scotch your standing as a statesman: cheating on your wife, starting a war, crashing the economy, illegally bombing sovereign states, selling landmines to despots, public assets to private entrepreneurs and influence to crooks.

But there are certain mistakes that seem to prove fatal: disco-dancing; appearing on internet sites in your underpants; and being exposed as an earwax-eating farty like the rest of us. Outrage, you can face down. Sniggering, you cannot.

I\’ve said this before and no doubt will say it again, but I\’m convinced that such sniggering was one of the things that helped to stop Sir Oswald Moseley and his Blackshirts before WWII. From the pen of PG Wodehouse we got Roderick Spode:

The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you\’re someone. You hear them shouting "Heil, Spode!" and you imagine it is the Voice of the People. That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is: "Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?"

The owner, as we know, of "the emporium in Bond Street known as Eulalie Soeurs".

Given the incredible popularity of Wodehouse at the time (he was getting $200,000 a time in 1930s money for the serialisations of each novel in a magazine) that sort of giggling couldn\’t fail to have hurt.

On Brown and Balls



Both Brown and Balls are profoundly weird. They may be clever. But they are also undeniably emotionally stunted. Neither possesses an ounce of charm or any other characteristic that makes people likeable. They bear an uncanny resemblance to Edward Heath.


Jack Weatherill Tribute.

Iain Dale\’s got a copy of the tribute to Jack Weatherill and it\’s this line that strikes a chord for me:

Jack told his closest friends that if he was to be remembered it was that his word was his bond.

A couple of decades ago Bernard Levin wrote a column in which he asked, how would you like to be remembered? As the young officer buried in some corner of the Raj whose headstone read "He always kept his word"? Or would you prefer "He always acted from the best intentions"?

Levin came down firmly on the side of the former.

Then some time after that but before Levin\’s death there was an interview with Weatherill in The Observer (I think it was) in which he used that very same story of the headstone. I clipped it out and sent it off to Levin via The Times along with some note about how at least one person shared his views. Got a nice note back as well.

No, nothing important, just one of those little memories that pop up, that I associate with both Weatherill and that phrase.


Delighfully accurate, becoming splenetic and ending with this:

Then stuff the shit-covered corpse with spoiled ballots and wheel it in to sit at the next Cabinet meeting as a warning to all those other shits. You work for us, you ….

Political Corruption

Yes, they are all corrupt:

The culture of self-interested denial is rooted in Labour\’s success in characterising John Major\’s government as being sleazy. New Labour\’s victory, leading ultimately to a third term, was not just associating all Conservatives with the dishonesty of Neil Hamilton (linked to the "cash for questions" affair in 1994) and Jonathan Aitken (imprisoned for perjury in 1999), but also in exploiting Lord Scott\’s critical inquiry into the government\’s approval of sales of weapons to Iraq as a manifestation of Tory deceit.

Drawing lessons from that success, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown decided that they would never repeat John Major\’s mistake of appointing an intelligent, independent-minded lawyer like Scott to investigate their own conduct. Since 1997 every official inquiry into alleged government misconduct has been entrusted to loyalists, patsies and payroll wallahs. The parallel success has been to silence Tory criticism about Labour sleaze.

As the Devil says, Hang Them All.

Please Do Talk: But Don\’t Say Anything

El Gordo shows he\’s not stopped the spin yet:

Gordon Brown will block moves today by his own business advisers to debate controversial Treasury plans to raise capital gains tax by up to 80 per cent.

The Prime Minister\’s high-level Business Council for Britain will meet for the first time this afternoon. But its high-powered members —including Sir Richard Branson and Sir Alan Sugar — will not be able to raise the proposed changes to capital gains tax (CGT), which it is feared will undermine British enterprise.

Instead, the meeting\’s agenda will focus on "high-level issues" including globalisation and climate change.

It is understood members of the council have been told that the meeting is not an "appropriate forum" to raise topics like tax policy.

Isn\’t that wonderful, he\’s "listening" to business. Just not about anything important.


If a politician and a bureaucrat were both drowning and you were the only person who could help, would you go to lunch or read the newspaper?

A Great Political Truth

Nick Cohen:

If in dentistry as elsewhere, huge increases in spending fail to produce huge improvements in services, the Conservatives or Conservative policies will triumph over social democracy. Voters will prefer to keep their taxes rather than have the government spend them on their behalf. Like Martin Amis, they will conclude that the British state can\’t help them and look elsewhere.

Yup, that is pretty much it. Going by the evidence, huge increases in spending (and the associated taxation) do not produce huge improvements in services. So, thankfully, goodbye to social democracy.

Polly on Poverty

Tee hee, very good Polly.

It was a piece of breathtaking cheek and bare-faced larceny when David Cameron pledged to "Make British poverty history" this week, stealing Gordon Brown\’s slogan and Labour\’s policy stronghold. Cameron snatched the starting day of a month of action on child poverty, run by the End Child Poverty campaign, an umbrella group of 90 children\’s charities originally assembled by Gordon Brown himself, as a counterweight against other spending demands.

Most amusing. Getting all het up about one pol stealing the policies of another….when said pol hadd just stolen several the other way around, you know, the non-doms thing and so on. Most amusing: but what\’s really wonderful is that you\’re complaining about Cameron stating that he\’s going to do what you want. Is ending poverty something that is only a valid goal when pushed by Labour? How tribal of you!

Ofsted spelled out the stark social, economic and racial divide that determines how well children do at school: low-income children are half as likely to get five good GCSEs as the well-heeled.

Gosh, I wonder, could that be something to do with the structure of the school system? Does your beloved Sweden do this better? (They do not, for those interested, spend more money.) And if they do, what is the Swedish system…..why, it\’s a voucher system!

If nothing is done it will be lethally worse by 2050, and not just among the poor. Some sensible and easy things can be done – no more advertising of rubbish food to children on TV or anywhere else,

Will that be like the current ban on TV shows? The one where the bureaucrats were so incredibly good at deciding what was good and what was rubbish that Marmite may no longer be advertised to children? Because they based their salt numbers on 100 g servings? Instead of the 3-4 g that Marmite might be served in? We\’re going to work at that level of efficiency, are we?

What is needed now is nothing less than a national culture change, embracing every aspect of life. Step back and look which nations have the fewest obesity problems. You guessed it, it\’s the Nordic countries, where social divisions are narrower.

Excellent! We\’re going to be more like the Nordics! Vouchers! No inheritance tax! No national minimum wage! No National health service! Be more like Sweden!

Both these reports and the shocking Unicef revelations on UK children suggest another way.

You remember that UNICEF report? The one that was comprehensively trashed when it came out? But, see, this is how they work: it\’s now an accepted part of the Canon, a reference point. Used as a throw away line, no one now remembers all of the qualifications that need to be added to the conclusions of the report. That, of course, is why it was written. Not to provide a dispassioned analysis, but to provide ammunition after those caveats are forgotten.

With children as the focus, universal children\’s services would need to be good enough to be appreciated by rich and poor alike. That means the best childcare and nurseries, better subsidised for all, with breakfast clubs and extended afternoon schools that really do match the activities of middle-class children.

And there\’s the real aim. All children to be placed in State podding hutches, there to be propagandised into the social democratic way. For you to raise your own, as you wish, would be doubleplusungood now, wouldn\’t it?

The Boy Dave (M)

While this is true it\’s perhaps not quite the right subject to make the comparison on:

A furious David Miliband has demanded an apology after a senior Labour MP compared his approach to the new EU treaty to Neville Chamberlain\’s appeasement of Adolf Hitler in 1938.

The unease was caused by this of course:

Mr Miliband\’s father and grandfather both fled to England from Brussels to escape the advancing German army in May 1940. His mother stayed behind and joined his father after the war.

So any reference to Hitler and the war is concerning, of course. Where such a comparison could be more usefully made is in the Foreign Secretary\’s attitiude to hte Iraqi interpreters. But it would be impolite to mention that, wouldn\’t it?