Tuesday, 5 February 2008

What a stunt!

Caroline Flint has hit the ground running. Only a few days into her new job as Housing Minister and she's already upholding the dishonourable New Labour tradition of attacking the weakest members of society in order to grab a few headlines.

Unfortunately, I'm sure that some people in social housing may well be distressed by the 'initiative'. Believing it to be a policy that will see the light of day rather than the self-serving pandering of a vicious little attention whore.

I leave it to that bastion of social justice The Daily Telegraph to give the final word

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Honest MP - shocker!!

Step forward Ben Wallace (Cons), who has just made his expenses public. And very dull reading they make too (which is rather how it should be). No other MP has yet followed his example. From which we can only assume they have something to hide.

Maybe you might want to email your MP and ask them if they'll be following Ben's example?

Are you local?

Bumptious Little Englanders are a-froth at the planned closures of rural schools. They're decrying the decision as yet another nail in the coffin of 'our British way of life'.

The reality of course is that 90% of the UK population live in urban areas. I don't think we should have to subsidise the 'Good Life' fantasies of the other 10%. Educating children in rural schools is far more expensive than in cities or towns.

If people want to keep open a school with 20 pupils, they should meet the costs themselves via increased Community Charge bills. I suspect people will be less vociferous in their support once they have to pay their way.

Friday, 29 June 2007

You're history

I gagged at the fawning sycophancy of Martin Kettle, defending Blair's place in history.

For me, Blair ranks with Eden - my, less than, balanced scorecard would be as follows:

Liberty - From ASBOS to Control Orders, Blair seems to be instinctively illiberal. The decade has seen a sustained erosion of personal freedom. In contrast, after the Brighton bomb, which was a far more serious incident than 7/7, Thatcher didn't reintroduce internment, and took a measured approach.

Child welfare - Out of 21 industrialised nations, Britain came bottom of a recent Unicef league table on child well-being. Child poverty has increased over the last ten years.

Equality - Compass reported that 'the share of national wealth owned by the richest 1 per cent in Britain had risen from 17 per cent in 1991 to 24 per cent in 2002, while the share of the country's riches held by the bottom 50 per cent of people had dropped from 8 percent to 6 per cent'. This gap has probably widened over the past few years.

Integrity - John Major showed weakness in dealing with a number of MPs who were personally corrupt. In contrast, Blair has brought sleaze right into the heart of the political process. He became the first sitting Prime Minister to be questioned as part of a criminal investigation, over the cash for honours issue. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is investigating the BAE Systems (alleged) bribes to Saudi Arabia. The IMF considers Britain to be an on-shore tax haven.

National Security - Nations go to war. But they do so for gain. The charge against Blair over Iraq is one of incompetence. He volunteered British troops to the conflict; and gained nothing from it, in terms of trade or treaties. And most damningly he joined with full knowledge that the Americans had absolutely no plans for the subsequent occupation. In doing so, he gave impetus for a group of sociopaths to commit the worst terrorist attack on British soil. And yes, there is peace in Northern Ireland, but much of the credit for that goes to Mo Mowlam and John Major.

Culture - from the Dome and 'Cool Britannia' Blair has celebrated mediocrity and vacuous celebrity. The creed of New Labour is inclusivity against elitism; serving up pureed art.

Lets lynch the landlord

It seems the gravy train of Buy to Let may be finally running towards the buffers. A huge number of borrowers are due to come off two-year fixed rate deals in the next couple of months. Rising interest rates, and some macro issues in the bonds market will mean they'll be looking at significant cost increases on their next deals. Rents are also softening, as the supply side increases - through new landlords, and also owners switching to renting until HIPS sorts themselves out. Even before May's rate rise, returns on property have slipped below ISA's.

It would be pleasing to see many of these amateur Rackmans catching a cold; but of course, they've still got the huge amount of equity built up in the properties over the past few years. As with any bubble, the casualties will be amongst the late entrants - as property prices soften, those who bought flats off plan may find that the valuation given to them by the developer's surveyor may not quite match the market rate.

The rise of Buy to Let may well be one of the most socially divisive policies of the past 10 years. A systematic transfer of wealth from the Have Nots to the Haves. A process that has occurred not by 'letting the market decide', but by proactive legislation. In 1999 tax relief on Buy to Let properties stood at £119m, last year is was at least £2bn. In contrast, first-time buyers have had absolutely zero tax relief since MIRA was abolished in 2000. This, and the loopholes in Capital Gains Tax, means Buy to Let landlords have been able to easily outbid first-time buyers at every turn: last year in London, 60% of all new-build apartments were bought by Buy to Let speculators.

It's been a long time since we've had a property owning class living off unearned income, at the expense of the other half of society. If Buy to Let does continue, we're very much moving back to those days; with the exclusion of a generation of people who would ordinarily have expected to own their own homes. And interestingly, a generation of educated and articulate people who seem to be quite accepting of this state of affairs.

Monday, 9 April 2007

Don't mention the war

On March 28th 1942, Royal Navy and Commando forces attacked the docks at St. Nazaire. Under heavy fire, and against overwhelming odds, they successfully completed their mission; putting the docks out of action for the rest of the war. 169 British troops were killed, 200 captured, and 5 VCs awarded.

Today, courtesy of the MoD, the world can hear how modern British forces will blub like schoolboys if you deny them a couple of episodes of Eastenders.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Only in the dystopian, through the looking glass world of King Tony could Ruth Kelly ever be Minister for Equality. Here she is, Blair's Bigot, doing the Lords work for the fundamentalists opposing the right of gay couples to adopt. The warmth and humanity just shines out of her.

It's great to see the faithful in their true colours. The Catholic's position is, and I'm paraphrasing slightly "we'd rather throw children out on the streets than see them housed with loving families who might not share our mean-spirited little worldview". The Anglicans have jumped in, with Rowan Williams giving his full support; warning that, and again I'm paraphrasing slightly "the Government should not create conditions where bigots feel their prejudices have been ignored or sacrificed".

A delicious exposure of the farce of 'pick and mix' Christianity. If your 'good' book hates gays; if the head of your church hates gays; where does that leave you? It's like joining the BNP and saying you're not a racist.