John Kelly

Well, it looks like we bloggers are indeed teaching the professional journos things.

John Kelly, a Washington Post columnist, is a visiting fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. He blogs at

The "Odd Google searches that brought people to my blog" has moved from blog post to Guardian column.

St George\’s Day Parade

Maybe they were right, maybe not, but this?

They offered them a shorter route that avoided two streets at the centre of the race riots in 2001, and an alternative date for the event on July 1.

As I say, maybe there really were safety fears, but to offer an alternative date for a march on the national Saint\’s day does seem a little odd. Bonfire Night on Dec 15th anyone?

Although, perhaps they\’re just practising for the 2013 Olympics?

BBC Pensions

Well, perhaps this is the same offer that anyone else joining at the same time would have got but:

Under the BBC pension schemes, which allow staff to retire at 50, the corporation pays in about three times the amount paid in by employees.

Three to one employer payments? Retire at 50? Sheesh.

You might just about understand the low retirement ages for, say, footballers (45 I think they can draw their pension?) or firemen, but what\’s the argument for the BBC? The physical strain of switching on a microphone?

Increasing Social Mobility

Reform has a paper out today abouthow to increase social mobility:

The UK’s dismal record in educating and motivating the poorest in society (whilst having some of the best elite education in the world) has been a central cause of low social mobility. The UK will not make progress until this problem is resolved. Strikingly, the countries with high social mobility – the Scandinavian countries – also contain some of the most reformed education systems. There is no barrier between state and independent schools since government funds pupils in both sectors according to parental choice.

That means vouchers I think, don\’t you?

Transfer payments have created a poverty trap both of finance (the UK has the highest marginal effective tax rates in the EU) and complexity. Public service performance is skewed towards the more affluent. An ever greater central grip on education (and major increases in spending) has not ended the massive disparity between elite and inner-city education. The rising burden of taxation, in particular on incomes, has “crowded out” individuals’ motivation to improve their own capability. For example, the higher rate tax rate now falls so close to average earnings that it acts as a “mobility block”.

The highest marginal effective tax rates in the EU? I knew we were bad on the tax/benefit withdrawal rates thing but the worst?

No wonder people don\’t bother.


Hmm, not sure about that description of this:

Alistair Darling will unveil an unprecedented scheme to offer £50 billion in taxpayer-backed loans to high street mortgage lenders today in an attempt to solve the credit crisis.

Under the plans, to be unveiled this morning, the Bank of England will swap Treasury bills for mortgage debts and other collateral from the banks. The total size of the loans will be dictated by demand.

Isn\’t that exactly what the Fed has been doing over in the States? Allowing mortgage bonds to be used as collateral?

Still, aside from that, should help I suppose but then I\’m no finance maven.

Timmy Elsewhere

In tomorrow\’s Times:

Once is happenstance, twice coincidence and the third enemy action, or so Ian Fleming had his character James Bond point out. By my reckoning this makes Gordon Brown Ernst Blofeld – no, after the sales of Britain\’s gold reserves at the bottom of the market, Goldfinger really wouldn\’t be appropriate.

The spectacular own goal of the abolition of the 10p income tax rate could have just been written off as happenstance. But when you look at all the other government actions that have increased the tax burden on the working poor, it\’s clear that “enemy action” best describes what Mr Brown has been up to. Economists, those drear and dismal souls, have a phrase, “fiscal drag”. Their point is that, in general, wages increase faster than prices. But a canny Chancellor will increase the tax-free personal allowance (or amount you begin to pay the upper tax rate) only in line with prices, instead of with the faster rising wages. This brings more people into the tax system itself – more will be paying both income tax and the higher rate of it, as has been happening for a decade.

Allowances in each of Mr Brown\’s Budgets – except 2003, when they were frozen – have risen by “statutory indexation”, in other words, by a similar rate to the Retail Price Index. And yes, the RPI has been rising more slowly than wages and as a result more of the low-paid have been sucked into the taxman\’s maw.

We now have the absurd situation that someone working 20 hours a week or so on the minimum wage is paying income tax. It may be true that the worker gets back some or all of their money in the form of credits or handouts, but why bother? Why not simply let them keep the money in the first place?

The tax and benefits system could have been designed by the evil genius of SPECTRE to attack the British way of life. In 2005 a married couple with two children on £200 a week would, if their gross income rose to £300, keep a trifling £8.52 of the rise: the rest was snatched by the taxman or lost on withdrawn benefits. The same year, a single parent on less than £400 a week lost 89.5 per cent of any pay rise.

Fortunately my fellow bleeding- heart classical liberals over at the Adam Smith Institute have a solution: simply take the poor out of the income tax net altogether by raising the personal allowance from its present rate of £5,435 to £12,000, perhaps even £14,000.

To tax the dustman to provide the Duke\’s opera, or the nursery nurse to feed the Navy, as we do, might be objectionable, but to tax the poor so that bureaucrats can give money to the poor is simply ludicrous. We should stop doing it.

Tim Worstall is a Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute

One thing that got lost in the editing process (which "Hi Robbie!", did of course make the piece better) was that I identified a fourth level, beyond enemy action. Active malevolence.

I should also note that Chris Dillow did the heavy lifting on those tax and benefit numbers. Ta Matey.

Timmy Elsewhere

Erm, that nice Nick Cohen\’s column today:

Even bloggers who have made their name by lambasting the mainstream media – Matt Drudge in the US, Tim Worstall here – believe newspapers and television companies are letting themselves down. \’Don\’t these people have editors!\’ Worstall bellows as he dissects another howler. They do, but maybe not for long. Or if editors survive, they may not have the resources to ensure that what they print is intelligently researched.

Although to be pendantic, it\’s normally with a ? rather than a !

Don\’t these people have editors?


People Really Don\’t Like Inheritance Tax

OK, maybe it\’s only two people who don\’t like it:

Gordon Brown, a happily married man himself, is responsible for the inheritance tax which, at 40% after the limit of £300,000 has been passed, affects all those whose houses have enjoyed a huge rise in value in the past decade.

It\’s a new phenomenon that a levy designed for the very rich now squeezes an incalculable number of people.

A large proportion of those victims of the British government\’s policy, taxpayers and homeowners, are senior citizens who took advantage of the new permissive atmosphere of the 1960s and settled down together to enjoy life without the trouble and strife – only to find that an unpleasant no-nup lies in store for their heirs if they decide not to wed.

When we went for our first interview at Chelsea town hall, we didn\’t know that the UK is alone in insisting that this punitive tax can only be avoided if two partners marry – unless, as it happens, they happen to be of the same sex, in which case they are able to demand a civil partnership ceremony that declares them as good as man and wife and thus immune to the tax.

It\’s heterosexuals who are forced to surrender their freedom in order to save their children the necessity of paying the tax at their death.

If even stalwart Labour supporters like  Emma Tennant  dislike the tax enough to marry to avoid it, what then with the idea that people think that it\’s fair?

It\’s not so much that it is or is not fair: perceptions matter more in politics than reality does. But if people do think this way, that it isn\’t fair (and I wager that many indeed do) then those insisting upon the fairness of it find themselves pretty much out on a limb.

Interesting Note

Labour was, until Tony Blair and Gordon Brown took charge of it, one of the least successful parties in the democratic world. Before Blair, Labour had won decent parliamentary majorities only on two occasions, in 1945 and 1966. Before Blair, Labour had never before won two, never mind three, full terms in office. The idea that their most electorally successful leader was all that stood between Labour and the love of the people was a nonsense.

Penalised for Obeying the Law

This is something that\’s not often noted with all of these cries to hit hard at those who drive people carriers and the like:

"Many families have three or four children, and they need the space to fit child seats the Government insists on."

If you\’ve got more than two kids, you rather need to have a large car so as to get the mandatory seats into it.

What Am I Missing Here?

This looks so insanely profitable that I simply have to be missing something here. It just cannot be existing.

So, single farm payments, the CAP subsidies. There\’s a market in them (the farmer can sell the subsidy stream and keep the land. You can buy the stream but not the land.)

But the prices seem absurd. Here. This one for example.

If I pay them £240 then I get a stream of income over the next 5 years totalling £786?

I don\’t have to do anything, the government just sends me the cheques? And it\’s guaranteed?

Why is anyone selling these at these prices? And why isn\’t everyone buying them?

What\’s the catch?

This Would Be Illegal

At least, I think it would be.

These are the requirements for one of the most sought after careers on the planet: the chance to go into space. The European Space Agency has announced that from May it will be recruiting a new cohort of astronauts. But although the ESA has said it will consider applications from all 17 EU states, unless the UK government changes its position on funding human spaceflight any British applicant selected would be blocked from beginning the training.

The Constitution they\’re pushing through right now bans discrimination on the grounds of national origin. Thus the proposed action would be illegal.