Posts Tagged 'Big Government'

It’s not our money now, it’s the government’s

On yesterday’s Andrew Marr show, Danny Alexander, who has been fuelling an ill-informed and wholly unjustified campaign against Starbucks, Amazon and Google, said:

At a time of austerity, everyone has an obligation to to play by the tax rules.

Absolutely! And playing by the tax rules is exactly what those three multinational companies have been doing.  Otherwise they would already be in court facing charges of tax evasion with HMRC being the key witness for the prosecution.

But of course, the spiteful Alexander already knows this.  That’s why he is using weasel words to incite anger among the have nots who don’t know the difference, furthering the ongoing blackmail to extort money from the companies the UK exchequer is not legally entitled to.  He knows these companies are following the rules, he just doesn’t like the fact the rules mean the government can’t get its hands on the companies’ cash because they prefer to be based in countries that charge lower rates than the UK.

As a number of governments look into how they can get hold of even more of the money individuals and companies have, Alexander and his ilk are exploring how they can enforce the same tax rate which they can then increase as they see fit knowing there will be no option for the people and businesses other than to pay up.  This is a form of armed robbery, the proceeds of which are to be used to bail out the governments for their disgraceful waste and refusal to live within their means.

The proposed actions are not only anti-c0mpetitive, they effectively mark the creation of economic imprisonment.  Our supposed servants are devising measures to take full ownership of our property and our money.  Where is the grassroots protest movement campaigning to fight this outrageous affront to personal freedom?  We already have no control over how government uses the money taken in tax, and slowly government is trying to stop us from deciding how we use our money by taking more and more of it from us.

When in the name of all things holy will people wake up and see what is happening?  The political class is out of control. The rules of the game have changed.  People need to take the power back.

Having damaged our economy the politicians ramp up their cash grab extortion racket

First we had that doyenne of rank hypocrisy, Margaret Hodge, given a free ride on BBC Radio 4 Today to label companies looking to minimise their tax liabilities as ‘immoral’. She’s a fine one to talk.

Now we have Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, signalling the government’s plan to demand more than their legal share of tax money with menaces. The Lib Dem minister, who says he has been boycotting Starbucks over its low tax bill, is now promising to “get under the skin” of those who do not pay their fair share.  The  Cosa Nostra are positively benign in comparison to this lot.

Alexander said on the Today programme that “public pressure” is an important tool in getting companies to change their behaviour.  He went on to say there is evidence people are already taking their custom away from companies that do pay little or no UK tax, such as Starbucks, Amazon and Google.  That is exactly what the government’s money with menaces campaign has been striving to achieve and it’s having the desired effect.

We are witnessing an extortion racket in action aided and abetted by the media, where the envy and resentment of less well off people who are trapped in PAYE is a well being tapped to help bring about what the government wants, despite the fact the government is not legally entitled to any extra money.   The consequences of not sacrificing exemptions and deductions and handing over additional money is that the state, and its establishment lackies, will do what Hodge and Alexander are already doing and work to destroy the reputation of those businesses by encouraging consumers through example to boycott them.  And this from a government that describes itself as pro-business, in a c0untry it describes as open for business.

‘We know no spectacle so ridiculous,’ wrote Thomas Macaulay some 175 years ago, ‘as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality.’  The government and parts of the media have successfully whipped up one such huge scale fit and are running a racket to pressure companies to voluntarily pay more in tax than they are legally obligated to.  It’s an outrageous campaign that too many people are too blind to see for what it is.

The result that all too few people are considering is that prices will rise to offset the increased cost of doing business in this country.  Many of the very people who are clamouring loudest for ‘fairness’ and more taxation will unwittingly be disproportionately affected by this because the higher costs will ultimately be footed by the consumer.  Who will they demonise then?

The government won’t care for it will have more money to squander on non essential spending like the hundreds of billions that have been pissed up the wall for no public benefit before it.  Perhaps people would do well to remember that a government big enough to give you what you want is a government big enough to take from you all you have.

A victory for state sanctioned and engineered bullying and intimidation

Following on from the BBC-enabled Margaret Hodge hypocrisy fest on the Today programme this morning…

American citizen Sam Bloggs, who when in Europe is resident in the Netherlands and pays tax on his earnings in full there, has told the UK government he is going to voluntarily pay more tax to the Exchequer than required by law, following a sustained campaign by his neighbours who argue that because he has a lot of money and he should pay more here.

Bloggs had followed the letter of the law enabling free movement of trade and capital in the EU after taking advice from taxation specialists.  But following his hard work and success in building up his worldwide franchise business, which indirectly employs a large number of people and contributes a substantial sum in tax and National Insurance to this country’s coffers, he was subjected to an onslaught of vilification in the media and even in Parliament.  Bloggs told AM:

My business model has helped create companies, wealth and jobs, generated substantial tax income and contributed a great deal through National Insurance in the UK. I give money and time to charity, working with the Fairtrade Foundation and supporting the Prince’s Trust through a partnership agreement even though I’m not based in Britain.

But because I’ve been fortunate enough to be successful a number of people and politicians have demanded I pay more than the rules say I am obligated to. They say it’s not fair that I’ve been successful and earned a lot of money and pay full tax in Holland instead of here.  Because I’ve earned it and got it they say fairness dictates they should have it instead.  They say they want it and they make the rules so therefore they’re entitled to it.

It means I’ll have less money to invest in creating more opportunities and supporting charity, but if I don’t make these additional payments some people are going to keep smearing me and telling people to boycott my brand.

State sanctioned and engineered bullying and intimidation has won the day for the feckless incompetents.  When will people wake up and say enough is enough?

Those who fritter away our money – not just on deserving vulnerable people in our society in need of support – on those who think they have a right to be kept in return for nothing, on those who come to this country to take advantage of the enhanced suite of benefits and services they have never contributed a penny to, and worst of all on massive handouts to the establishment’s friends who farm taxpayer subsidies for all manner of wheezes on an industrial scale to boost their already substantial wealth, are demanding even more money with menaces while hoodwinking the unthinking into applying the necessary pressure to make it possible.

The pressure to fork over ever more money to the government is not just being applied to the likes of Starbucks and Amazon.  Via the spiteful tactics of HMRC conducted outside the view of the public, it’s happening to small businessmen too, driving some out of business altogether.  And the state calls this ‘fair’.  Bollocks!

When will the state’s increasingly untrammelled power become ‘too much’?

‘You have money and we are taking it.’  This increasingly the attitude of the British government and its agencies and it is a phenomenon stretching across Europe and into the Americas.

In fairness to the state it has played a blinder.  It has successfully turned one part of society, the less well off, more aggressively against better off members of society, despite the fact the less well off stand to gain nothing from an increase in the tax take.  The only beneficiary is the government which possesses an almost limitless capacity for squandering the money and leaving the country with nothing to show for it.

What used to be simple envy or disdain of the better off has been transformed into resentment and outright hostility.  The media has been an willing accomplice, fanning the flames and parroting a narrative that anyone who seeks to keep their tax liabilities to a minimum is somehow being unfair to the rest of society, not paying their fair share and by definition morally repugnant.

The hostility first became entrenched when it was directed at the lavishly remunerated corporate officers and the bonus happy bankers.  But now it has broadened to encompass anyone who is not an average PAYE employee.

Never mind that many of those people being subjected to unjust anger have taken huge risks to build businesses and create jobs, while working 18 hour days, going without holidays, not being able to spend time with their families and working when unwell because there is no luxury of sick pay to fall back on.  No, unless their pockets are being turned out to satisfy the state’s fetish for controlling how their money is spent, without any form of consultation or consent, they are the most selfish scum of the earth.

So it is against that backdrop of sown division, mistrust and resentment that two stories this weekend combine to paint a picture of our elected and supposed representatives running out of control, rigging the rules against the ‘ordinary’ citizens to suit ideological interests they have adopted from a plethora of unelected and unaccountable bodies that are positioning themselves as a de facto global administration.

The first story concerns the shocking actions of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) falsely accusing a company’s directors of fraud, shutting down the company making over 30 people unemployed and using draconian powers that prevent the former owners from challenging the action through the courts while pressuring them to settle the accusation with payment to cover the alleged £7 million in taxes and duties.  There was no evidence.  All this happened on the basis of a suspicion that something fraudulent was going on.  Indeed, HRMC’s defence of their actions was to state there was no evidence the company wasn’t acting fraudulently, a clear inversion of the principles of justice.

The second story concerns HRMC tearing up the basic principles of privacy and data protection.  At the behest of the government, HRMC is to use credit reference agencies to cross-check details of the income people declare on their tax returns against their spending patterns to identify “high” and “medium” risks of both illegal and legal tax avoidance.  As we have said on this blog and Twitter before, tax evasion is a crime, but tax avoidance is perfectly legal.  So why should HMRC bother checking to see if people are legally minimising their tax liability?  The clue can be found in the comment by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander:

“It is simply not fair that at a time when most people are making a contribution to balancing the nation’s books, there is a small minority of taxpayers who try to escape their responsibility.”

Really? Who determines what is ‘fair’?  Never mind that some of these people pay more in tax each year than a lot of other people earn.  Never mind the risks and sacrifices many of them have made as detailed above.  No, they are supposedly escaping their ‘responsibility’ – a word the definition of which governments of every stripe over the last 20 years or more have simply not grasped and believe to be a one-way street that travels in their direction.

We are witnessing a concerted effort to demonise those who have something the government wants in order to enable the government to use nefarious mechanisms to obtain it.  In the eyes of the government – as it stokes up the spiteful societal divisions it is fostering by using vocal members of the less well off as useful idiots to demand exactly that which the government wishes to do – this state over reach is justified for being a populist measure demanded by the public.  And for fear of kneejerk vilification, by the unthinking useful idiots and hypocritical, comfortably wealthy trough hogging politicians, many reasonable and right thinking people who see the wrong-headedness of the government’s behaviour and irresponsible waste of our resources, keep quiet.  This is the UK in 2012.

Small wonder we see cries of frustration such as this in response to the tightening grip our supposed servants are exerting on ordinary people.  Common sense is evaporating and manipulation of the people by those who make the rules is all pervasive.  What will it take before the slumbering masses wake up and realise the state’s self conferred and increasingly untrammelled power has become too much?  When will people take the power back?

Cameron demonstrates his contempt for people power yet again

According to the Barclay Brother Beano, Cast Iron Dave is set to announce that residents’ rights to mount legal challenges to controversial development projects will be severely restricted.

Having been briefed on what is coming, the Torygraph’s James Kirkup goes on to explain:

‘Mr Cameron will argue that the rules are being abused to frustrate economically vital developments and will say a “massive growth industry” of seeking judicial reviews of planning decisions has been fuelled by solicitors and campaign groups.

‘Many applicants are guilty of “time-wasting” and bringing “hopeless cases” simply to waste developers’ time, the Prime Minister will say. He will outline a number of changes the Government wants to make, including shortening the three-month time limit on applying for a review.

‘Charges for an application will rise “so people think twice about time-wasting.” The number of possible appeals against decisions will also be cut from four to two.’

The Boiling Frog hasn’t wasted any time showing up Cameron’s forthcoming comments for what they are… yet another flip flop from a Prime Minister without a single principled bone in his body.  There is another more serious issue here concerning the widening gulf between the pledges politicians make to the people in order to try to win an election, and the reality once they have taken office.  Consider these quotes and compare them with what Kirkup says Cameron plans to say:

We have a coherent programme to fix our broken politics and drag our democracy into the post-bureaucratic age. It involves a massive, sweeping, radical redistribution of power – from the political elite to the man and woman in the street.

[…] Conservatives start with an instinctive desire to give people more power and control over their lives.
– David Cameron, ‘Giving power back to the people’ speech on 25 June 2009


You can see the nature of the change we want in the phrase itself…

…literally going from a bureaucratic world, where the old methods like regulation, laws and diktats allow elites in Westminster to control other people’s lives…

…to a post-bureaucratic world, where instead of government telling people what to do or forcing them to do it…

…people themselves have far more power and control over their lives…

…and where we achieve change by trying to influence people by going with the grain of human nature.

So it’s about giving power to people.

And it’s about showing an understanding of people, in how we make policy and design government and public services.
– David Cameron, ‘From central power to people power’ speech on 22 February 2010

Cameron can do this and is doing this because of the complete absence of accountability to the electorate. None of the talk of people power ever results in the political class handing back any of the power they have snatched.

The more that power is centralised the less democratic the country becomes. While Cameron talks a good game on people power, the core of his being is authoritarian and paternalist, always striving to marginalise the views of the very people he and his ilk are supposed to listen to and represent.  This has to stop.  Real change is required and the developing grassroots Harrogate Agenda campaign is working to achieve it.

Ever wondered why the UK public purse is empty?

Let the good Dr North spell it out, using the taxpayer funded financial merry-go-round of the co-organisers of the infamous 2006 BBC Climate Change seminar, the International Broadcasting Trust, to illustrate the point:

… in this “trust” we have yet another of those networks of influence. It represents a coalition of international charities, the members including: ActionAid, Amnesty International, British Red Cross, CAFOD, Care UK, Christian Aid, Comic Relief, Concern UK, Friends of the Earth, the Media Trust, Merlin, Oxfam, Plan UK, Practical Action, Progressio, RSPB, Save the Children, Sightsavers International, Skillshare International, Tearfund, UNA UK, UNICEF UK, VSO, the World Association for Christian Communication, World Vision and WWF.

However, apart from the “usual suspects” such as Friends of the Earth and WWF, there is a particularly interesting member of the IBT – a trust which, as one will remember, lobbies the BBC. That is the Media Trust. And the “corporate members” of this trust are … the BBC as well as Sky, ITV, News International and Google.

Neglecting the other delicious members, and focusing on the BBC, it seems we have a situation where the state broadcaster is a corporate member of the Media Trust which, in turn, is a member of the International Broadcasting Trust, which is paid by the Government (DFID) to lobby the … er … BBC about climate change. And so the circle closes.

No wonder the establishment doesn’t want we ordinary people deciding how our money gets spent.  Overnight it would put an end to this outrageous abuse.  Read the whole piece on EU Referendum.


The assault on free speech and wilful media ignorance

It’s fair to say I am not John Kampfner’s biggest fan.  But despite his observations of free speech being presented through the prism of media self interest, this piece he had in the Barclay Brother Beano on Thursday; ‘The global war on free speech’ makes some very good points that all readers would do well to absorb:

… We need anti-terrorism measures, but not the outrageous Communications Data Bill currently being discussed in Parliament, that would give not just the security services but dozens of lesser public bodies the right to demand emails and social media traffic from any citizen in the land.

… We need libel laws, but not those that for years have indulged sheikhs, oligarchs and other super-rich figures, preventing anyone from writing about them.

… Everywhere around the world, it seems, the right to take offence has been elevated into a human right. Usually, but not always, this “right” is exercised through religious belief. Most cases are seen through the prism of “insults” to Islam. But this “right” now seems to be exercised by whoever wants it.

… Whose interests are served when local councils know that planning decisions and other dodgy dealings will go unreported? The same goes on a national scale, not just about politicians, but sports stars and their agents and businesses on the take. Investigative journalism takes time, requires patience and indulgence from editors, and costs money. That is the area that is being cut back most of all – to everyone’s detriment.

… But I have worked in many countries – not just under authoritarian regimes – where journalists are seduced by the offer of a seat at the top table, or are persuaded not to ask that extra question. “Go easy, we don’t want trouble” could all too easily become the mantra here.

However this necessarily takes us off at an important tangent.  From a blogger’s perspective, why should it matter than any of Kampfner’s points are presented as media centric matters?  Because it should be recognised that some bloggers/citizen journalists are already adding value in this area by shining a light on instances of misbehaviour and dodgy dealings that were previously the preserve of investigative reporters.

When the likes of Kampfner readily accept journalists are manipulated and effectively bribed and show deference to those with ‘prestige’, it should be a warning sign that government ministers are only interested in working with journalists on matters of openness and transparency, as evidenced by this tweet from the Cabinet Office on 17 October, quoting Francis Maude:

The glorious media is playing right into the government’s hands and is in lockstep when it comes to excluding ‘the people’ – the ordinary man in the street.  But for the sneering journalistic condescension directed at bloggers by the self professed media elite, more examples of these type of stories published on blogs could be brought to a national audience by the legion of lavishly remunerated hacks. However, instead of the media working with bloggers they see them as little people, the great unwashed, whose stories are unworthy of exposure, so only a comparatively small number of people get to find out about them.

If the likes of John Kampfner genuinely want to champion free speech and bring attention to the murky activities of the powerful and the rich, locally or nationally, they could make an immediate difference by giving up their delusions of prestige and ending their policy of deliberately ignoring stories that common or garden bloggers uncover and publish.  Not for nothing do we assert the media is not an ally, but a fully assimilated part of the establishment.

Another £16m of our tax pounds abused

Much of what is said and done in Parliament by the political class doesn’t get reported because the media doesn’t find it sexy or controversial enough to form a sensational story.

But there are always snippets of information that, if they were given more exposure, have the potential to make people realise the British government doesn’t work in the interest of the British people.  This question and written answer published this week is one such example:

Chi Onwurah:To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps she is taking to help improve local government in sub-Saharan Africa.

Lynne Featherstone: In 2010-11 DFID worked on decentralisation and subnational government in 12 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, spending a total of £16,279,000 through its bilateral programme. This support includes strengthening departments of regional and local government, regional and local authorities and their national associations. DFID has also supported peer to peer learning mechanisms, through the Commonwealth Local Government Forum which has achieved good results in several African countries.

The obvious point to raise here is, how come so much taxpayers’ money is being spent on ‘improving’ local government in sub-Saharan Africa when the UK needs to get its own house in order for local government to be effective, efficient and a servant of the people rather than their master?

Is it not ironic the British government wants to tell other countries how their local government should be and throw our money at realising that vision, while our local government is a functionary branch of central government?  Here local government is only good for soaking up more of our money in fees and charges to service its own existence while delivering ‘services’ for which we pay ever more and get ever less.  Here local government is administered by a core of unaccountable and overpaid bureaucrats whose target is to restrict our rights and freedoms while carrying out the wishes of the EU overlord, regardless of what elected Members decree.

Perhaps that is the vision our well-heeled mandarins have for the people of sub-Saharan Africa.  Perhaps our money is being spent in this way to ensure the structures there are just right for future supranational control by an unaccountable authority that takes its steer from the equally unaccountable UN and the various bodies operating beyond democratic control, who impose their will on the rest of us regardless of what we want – made possible through our taxes.  He who controls the money and how it’s spent…

Referism anyone?

Europe isn’t working

It would be easy to take that sentiment and apply it as an observation of the Euro and the EU in general.  But that isn’t what is meant.  The reference concerns the news that for the first time ever there are more than 25 million people across the 27 member states who are unemployed.

As government has grown, both at EU and national level, and hyperactively sought to increasingly regulate and legislate in ever more spheres of business life it should come as no surprise that the jobless total has risen.  The notion that government has the duty to direct everything for the ‘good of society’ comes at a price and part of the cost is the shocking unemployment and lack of competitiveness.

Rising taxation and ever growing government budgetary needs should be a warning claxon, not as some would have it, a cause for relief that something is being done.  We need smaller government that takes less from us and borrows less and focuses on essential public services.

No doubt some tribal Tories would see that assertion and rush to claim David Cameron is championing that very approach with his theatric threat to veto the EU budget.  Deeds, not words, matter and when it comes to reality the fact is the UK with its claims of deficit busting austerity is actually taxing, borrowing and spending more than Labour did.

All the political elites talk about ‘sustainability’.  But just what is sustainable about the current disturbing approach to managing the economy?  The European approach to governance has failed.  The absence of real democracy, where the people would decide if their servants can spend and borrow money for their pet projects, is the root cause of this collapse.  Until people take back the power grabbed by the political elite and their corporate sponsors this state of affairs will continue.

Frack off, Cameron

Back in May this year, Ed Davey revealed to Parliament there had been a discussion at Number 10 with ‘experts in the shale gas industry’ concerning shale gas in the UK.

What was interesting about this, as Andrew Montford at the Bishop Hill blog pointed out, was that these experts apparently told David Cameron and other assembled stuffed shirts that it would take some time to exploit shale gas – and that ‘strong regulation’ would be required.  It was certainly a strange sentiment coming from people in the industry, who presumably would want to push ahead quickly to exploit shale, and do so with minimal constraints.

As Montford speculated at the end of his post, ‘I wonder who Number Ten’s experts were?’  I wondered the same thing, which is why I submitted the Freedom of Information request shown below:

Now bearing in mind in April this year, none other than the Cabinet Office (the department that would field my request) Minister Francis Maude wrote in the Guardian (where else?) the claims below, one would expect that openness and transparency to be readily on display:

Since coming to office, the coalition has made great strides towards David Cameron’s commitment that the United Kingdom would be the most open and transparent government in the world. We have already brought a new openness to all areas of government, radically challenging the damaging idea that public data is owned by the state, not the citizen.

– Francis Maude, The Guardian, 19 April 2012

But of course, when it comes to politics we are in the Post-Truth Age.  Anything goes in this ideologically bankrupt administration, so long as it and its friends benefit.  Which is why more than two months after submitting my request – without explanation for the failure to comply with the terms of the Freedom of Information Act, or apology for the delay and failure to respond to my follow up queries – I received the following:

The suspicion is that the government is – as it so often does – only listening to opinions that reinforce its viewpoint and agenda.  It stretches the bounds of credulity that even if the likely reserves of shale are not as extensive as some might suggest, representatives of the shale gas industry would seek to hinder their effort to exploit shale and actually demand significant government action to restrict the extraction of shale.

The rhetorical question is, in whose interest is this government working?  It’s certainly not ours.

Cameron turns nanny state into overbearing Mother State

“I think this whole debate about nanny state is nonsense.

“Parents want help. It is in our interest as a society to help people bring up their children.

“We’re taught to drive a car. We’re taught all sorts of things at school. I think it makes perfect sense to help people with parenting.”

For once, David Cameron is right.  This is not the nanny state at work.  No, this is the modern, intrusive, hectoring and all powerful Mother State in action, desperate to direct the way parents bring up their children – irrespective of whether they need help at all.

The major concern here is that parents who reject the intrusion of the state into the raising of their children could end up listed as presenting a risk to their youngsters for not welcoming agencies in with open arms.

Whenever the organs of the state are held at bay by parents, its agents develop a suspicion of the parents’ motives.  When one considers events that have taken place behind the closed doors of  family courts and the case review meetings of social services departments – and the way in which the state can simply decide to remove children from families on the basis of guesswork or prejeudice – it can only be cause for concern that the tentacles are being given extended reach.

Children are the responsibility of their families.  The state has no business routinely muscling in on the upbringing of those children.  Where families are dysfunctional and their children are genuinely neglected or at risk, then there are already measures in place to provide support to them – although time and again we see stories of abuse and neglect of youngsters who are ‘in care’ yet are allowed to fall into a nightmare of drug addiction, sexual exploitation and criminality.

The parents who are unable to cope are nearly always known to the various departments and agencies due to their existing problems.  Surely those people can be offered guidance in how to feed, bathe and care for their offspring as part of their existing contact with the agencies, without a nationwide programme being introduced at huge cost that effectively positions the government as surrogate parents.

Far from working towards a smaller state and affording people greater privacy and personal freedom, this latest government wheeze flies in the face of all three pledges.  It is the real face of the control freak autocrat who occupies Number 10.

That Cameron low tax small government in action

So, if I want to replace the windows or boiler in my house, under plans drawn up by the Department for Communities and Local Goverment on the watch of the low tax small government Cameron Conservatives, my local council would have the power to make me add new insulation or draught proofing before allowing me to do the work.

No matter what I determine to be my spending priority, the government would demand paperwork about the work being done in my home be submitted to them so they could scrutinise it and compel me to undertake actions I might not be able to afford.  Could this be another example of civil service ‘gold plating’ of the diktat of our supreme government in Brussels?  [Update: Witterings from Witney has more]

An army of civil servants would be poring over work dockets to decide what measures to impose on me in my own home, no doubt assembling information about my house that could be used to re-assess its value and make me liable to pay even more in Council Tax for ever poorer services.  This is the Cameron Conservatives in action.  They talk about low taxation and small government, then one of their departments comes up with this assault on privacy and individual freedom.

And if I can’t afford the additional measures, I would have to borrow the money (which I have already had ripped from my pay in the form of taxation) from the government and repay it through the already rising gas and electricity bills over a period up to 25 years.  Naturally no one has thought to explain what happens if I move house in that time.  Do I still make repayments for something I no longer benefit from while living in a new property – one that potentially will also see me compelled to take on even more debt to undertake measures over and above what I may need to do to that house, just to satisfy the demands of my public servants?  Or will the cost have to be passed on to the people buying my house thereby reducing the likelihood of me being able to sell it in the first place – perhaps making it impossible for me to move for employment reasons thus undermining my career?

Either way, the net effect will be the same.  More money will be forcibly taken from me on the orders of the political class.  More government bureaucracy will service more intrusion in my life at more cost to me.  More records will created about my house and my possessions stored on databases for government use resulting in more legislation that adds yet more cost to me.

A government that is truly accountable and answerable to the wishes of the people it serves would not get away with this.  In fact they would not even put it on the table for consideration.  What we have is just one more example of why we need to take back power from the political class and operate a system such as Referism.

Will the UK Government now be prosecuted?

Cast your mind back to the al-Yamamah arms deal signed in the 1980s.  After the first of the two deals was signed, allegations surfaced that payments of around £600m had been made to members of the Saudi royal family and various middle men.

In the years that have followed various investigators have claimed that up to £6bn worth of ‘commission’ payments and entertainment slush fund spending were made as part of the £43bn deal.  The payments were designed to ensure the Saudis purchased (mainly) British Aerospace aircraft and maintenance contracts.  The Serious Fraud Office began an investigation and, only under political pressure, dropped it in 2006 to prevent the loss of yet another Saudi arms deal.

BAE Systems, as the company was later renamed, was also involved in another bribery scandal that saw Tanzania purchase a fast becoming obsolete £30m Watchman military air traffic control system that could only provide limited use for civil air traffic control needs – which is what was required to support more civil air traffic in support of the country’s growing tourism industry.

BAE had paid an ‘agent’ Shailesh Vithlani, BAE’s former marketing adviser in Dar es Salaam, around £7m to grease the wheels of the deal, which was funded by Tanzania through the use of aid money given for school education. The Serious Fraud Office became involved and BAE was fined half a million pounds and promised to pay Tanzania £30m for the benefit of its people.

There are many more cases, but these two give a flavour of the serious criminality of paying bribes to help deals go through.  Now fast forward to this year and the story that India has passed over the ‘Eurofighter’ Typhoon fighter aircraft in favour of Dassault’s Rafale fighter.

In December last year, the Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, spoke about UK aid to India – which was coming under fire given that India has rapidly created more wealth than the UK, has a space programme, aircraft carriers and the aircraft to go on them and is actually an international aid donor itself – and was reported by the Independent in the following terms:

Asked about the strategic goals of Britain’s aid programme to India, Mr Mitchell  yesterday referred to the proposed education scheme in Orissa, and added: “It’s about everything I have just mentioned. The focus… is also about seeking to sell Typhoon. The relationship is a relationship you have to take in the round.”

The Minister, after previously pushing the line that Indian defence spending was reducing and its people are in need of our money, had bluntly admitted the reality that the UK Government was sending British taxpayers’ money to India as part of an effort to secure the sale of 126 Typhoon fighter jets.  It is effectively a £1.2bn bribe being paid over four years to sweeten an arms deal.

A significant aggravating factor in this aid-for-fighter jets effort is the news in the Sunday Telegraph that India’s Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, and other Indian ministers tried to terminate Britain’s aid to the country last year, but relented after the British begged them to keep taking the money. It goes on to explain that officials at the Department for International Development (DfID) told the Indians that cancelling the programme would cause “grave political embarrassment” to Britain, according to sources in Delhi.

BAE Systems, and British Aerospace before it, has been investigated and prosecuted by the Serious Fraud Office for paying money to secure arms contracts.  So why is the UK Government able to do exactly the same thing without sanction, pressuring India to take our money dressed up as aid at a time we have more than enough requirement for the cash and are still borrowing heavily?  Surely we should be expecting the SFO to launch a prosecution against the government.  If not then isn’t the government signalling to private companies that this behaviour is acceptable?

Why ‘we are the 99 percent’ has got it wrong

In the comments to a previous post, Permantexpat asked for my opinion on the burgeoning ‘we are the 99 percent‘ movement in the US.  I say the US because the UK boasts an altogether more positive 99 percent organisation with a different agenda.

In the US, ‘We are the 99 percent’ has emerged from the leftist agitprop of the Occupy Wall Street foolishness.  There are many tragic stories of misfortune among those who are now identifying with the 99 percent movement, but there are also many people who are involved for no more reason than they embody the politics of envy, the politics of entitlement, the politics of something for nothing.

There is a peculiar mindset among many on the left.  It leads them to argue that if someone has wealth the state should take a slice of it and give it to others who are less wealthy. Never mind that many of those people with wealth have earned it through hard work, long hours, risk taking, personal and emotional commitment and a determination to succeed; they have it and the Wall Street occupiers believe that without putting in the same effort they are entitled to some of it.

I am part of the 99 percent whose costs are increasing, income is falling and for whom the economic mess is proving harmful.  But I do not endorse or support the insipid, big state, authoritarian rent seekers who are leading desperate people down a dead end path.

The decent people who are suffering in the current economic situation, and through desperation are climbing aboard the leftist bandwagon, are right to protest.  However they are protesting against the wrong people.  The focus of their anger should not be Wall Street, it should be the White House and Congress. The root cause of what angers them is not those in the financial sector, regardless of the way many of them operated.  No, the root cause is a combination of themselves and the government.

  • Themselves because they allowed the politicians to con them into believing the state has all the answers and could be relied upon to throw a never ending stream of money at various agencies they could milk
  • The government because successive administrations have gradually made millions more people dependent on the state for assistance and handouts, while pursuing policies that have driven up the costs of essentials

What has been lost on too many people is the adage that a government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.  The consequences of allowing this to happen are now coming back a vengeance.  Now the handout tap has been turned down a large number of people are finding they have been living beyond their means.  No one denies the difficulty this causes for many decent people, but demanding the handouts continue by taking money from those who are more fortunate is not the answer.

Occupying Wall Street will change nothing.  Sleeping outside St Paul’s Cathedral will change nothing.  The first thing to do is focus a campaign on the politicians – because it is they who have encouraged and embedded this situation – and demand a change in the scandalous government spending priorities and regressive policies which are driving up the cost of food and energy, hitting the poorest hardest.

What is required is an end to the corporatism that masquerades as democratic government. It won’t happen by protesting outside the offices of bankers and financiers.  It won’t happen via movements which are steered by those who want to replace the damaging corporatist system with a damaging socialist system.

But when the decent majority wake up, stop being manipulated by the Marxists and leftists and demand action on their terms and focus on the political class, it will create the conditions for government in the people’s interest – where policies do not impoverish and the power games of the politicians are pushed out to the margins.  We might at last get proper representative democracy.

Richard North in Daily Mail’s RightMinds

There is nothing like having a substantial platform in a mass readership entity to convey an important perspective on an essential topic. But thanks to the RightMinds section in the Mail, that is what Dr Richard North of EU Referendum has secured in order to carry a vitally important message to the wider public.  If you’ve not already seen the piece it is well deserving of a few minutes of your time.

People power and the restoration of democracy

Many people in this country turn off when the words ‘politics’ or ‘politicians’ are mentioned.  Ask people why they react in such a way and you will hear many different answers, but there will be several common themes.

Among these are the feelings that politicians are incapable of telling the truth and they work in their own interest; there is no point voting because politicians in the different mainstream parties have indistinguishable views on the major issues; and that politics itself is now irrelevant because the wishes of voters are ignored.

So it is that we hear politicians pontificating about ‘reconnecting’ the public with the politics and encouraging people to ‘engage’ in the political process. These sentiments by politicians are evidence that our politics is broken. It is an admission that politics is not working for the people. But despite this that same political class responsible for breaking our politics and bringing about the disconnect and lack of engagement refuses to acknowledge itself as the root cause of the problem. That is why we need a new approach and why I am supporting the idea of Referism.

What we have before us is not democracy but a hollowed out shell. Politics in this country, as in many others, has become a one way conversation. Politicians speak and they expect us t0 listen. The political class is set in ‘transmit’ mode but refuses to flick the switch to ‘receive’. They present their non binding manifestos and declare this is what they want you to vote for. This is the ‘democratic’ choice laid before you. But the manifestos have not been constructed by listening to the wishes of voters. As such the elections in this country are largely meaningless and – importantly – the ability to bring about real change is denied to the electorate.

It is the pursuit of power that accounts for most of those people who join parties and become politicians. The notion of entering politics to ‘make a difference’ or merely to ‘serve’ is seldom a genuine explanation, and in any case it lasts only a short time after election success.

I can vouch for the reality of this having been elected as a Councillor with the best of intentions – and then having seen at first hand how any effort to carry out the wishes of the people who voted for me was met by inertia or outright opposition from civil servants. This was accompanied by warnings from local party leadership that positions on key committees or ascent to deputy or chairman roles depended upon not rocking the boat. That is why so many Councillors get involved enthusiastically for the right reasons then turn native after their election. For my part, I resigned rather than compromise my principles.

The problem is that during a term as an elected representative there is absolutely no need whatsoever to take heed of what those who cast their votes actually want their Councillor or MP to do. When I argued in open Council that Councillors should listen to what people in their wards wanted and do all they can to deliver on those wishes, I was told that we should act as leaders and tell the people what we believed they needed instead. The very idea of letting people decide what they want is anathema to those who hold power.

The power in this country resides with the political class, and the civil service which only seems to serve its own interests and objectives. It should reside with the people. That is what democracy is supposed to be about.

So it follows that in order to restore democracy to this country power must be taken back by the people. The power our politicians possess is the ability to make decisions requiring them to determine how our money, collected through taxation, is spent. If people had the ability to veto decisions by refusing to allow their money to be spent, the power of the political class – supposedly our representatives and servants anyway – would be removed. Ordinary people would be calling the shots, which is as it should be.

In the Referism model politicians would have to ask us for money to spend. They would become accountable if forced annually to seek our approval for spending and therefore receive our money. If their request was, for example, for money to hand to the European Union as part of our contribution to Brussels’ unaccountable spending a majority of voters could deny the request and prevent that money being handed over.

Money is power. This works not only in the world of business but in the world of politics. When it comes to government spending it is our money being used, therefore we should have the power.

The Referist idea is developing and more people are joining the debate. Do join the debate and share your views about how we ordinary people can take back power and how this democratic ideal can supplant the system of elective dictatorship in this country.

Met Office losing commercial customers

Earlier this month a report in the Sunday Express (published online late on 7th May) about the forecast for the Royal Wedding made a couple of interesting observations that prompted a blog post here on AM.

Firstly there was confirmation that the Met Office will pay performance-related bonuses this year which will push the total paid to its 1,800 staff in the last six years to almost £15million. Apparently these bonuses are based on profitability and when the Met Office meets its targets on forecasting accuracy.

Secondly there was a reminder that the majority of the Met Office’s £190million annual income comes from public funds by means of contracts to provide services to government departments and that critics say it is time to force it to compete in the open market against other forecasters.

It was these factoids that made me curious about the reality of the Met Office’s forecasting performance.  Do its executives really deserve the bonuses they are going to receive?

While the Met Office might like to aggressively counter stories like that in the Sunday Express, as it did on 9th May by claiming its forecast the day before the Royal Wedding was more accurate than the newspaper claimed, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.  Or in weather forecasting terms, seeing how many private customers are sufficiently satisfied with Met Office forecasts to continue buying services from them commercially.  So this blog submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Met Office asking them:

Please will you supply me with full details of:

1. The number of non-Governmental (private) customers purchasing
forecasting services from the Met Office in the years 2008, 2009
and 2010 respectively

2. The total revenue received from non-Governmental (private)
contracts for forecasting services provided by the Met Office in
the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 respectively

Please note I am not requesting details of the individual customers
or specifics of their contract terms.

It was a clear enough request.  However, the Met Office’s reply seemed to be trying to conceal something:

The number of commercial customers purchasing services from the Met Office over the three year period would show us whether the customer base is stable, rising or falling.  The number of commercial customers is a fair reflection of customer confidence in Met Office forecasts.  But the Met Office clearly did not want to deal in specifics.

So a follow up was sent asking that they provide me with the exact number of commercial customers in each of the three years specified as per my request.  Their reply arrived today:

While revenues (for the years where figures are available) have remained fairly constant, we can now see that since 2008-9 the Met Office commercial customer base has shrunk by 17.3%.

We can now see why the figures were not provided in response to the original request.  And this is happening against a backdrop of independent forecasters adding customers to their books.

Customers generally don’t leave specialist service providers that deliver good performance, so it is reasonable to assume that faith in Met Office forecasting is declining due to accuracy failings.  If performance is on the wane the question that must be answered is how can the Met Office’s executives continue to award themselves bonuses year on year?

Without the cushions and comfort blankets provided by guaranteed government contracts funded with our tax pounds one wonders how the Met Office would fare operating exclusively in the private sector.

Mandates and hypocrisy

Anyone who has listened to Ed Miliband (why, oh why…) in recent weeks, as he witters on about tomorrow’s voting system referendum, will have noticed the line to take that has been adopted by his PRs and spin doctors – that of electoral mandate.

Repeatedly, including this morning on Radio 4’s Today programme, Miliband has stated that the ‘Conservative led coalition’ is undertaking cuts and other actions for which they ‘do not have a mandate’.

It seems strange of Miliband to complain about this.  After all, was it not Labour who allowed millions of migrants into the country without a mandate to do so? Was it not Labour who signed the Lisbon Treaty without a mandate to do so? And where was Miliband’s righteous indignation about Labour’s lack of mandate when doing what it wanted, irrespective of the wishes of the public?

To emphasise the hypocrisy of it all, where was Miliband when a lawyer representing the Labour government argued in court that people had no reasonable entitlement to expect that a political party will carry out its manifesto pledges? Did he resign in noble anguish? Did he hell.

This brings us back to the reality of our situation today. We are merely pawns in the self serving power games of the rival factions of the political class. They spend all their time fighting like rats in a sack about trivialities because when it comes to matters of substance they are in agreement.

The voting reform referendum is just another triviality. Another contrived battle of ‘principle’ helpfully played out as a major issue by the dumbed down mainstream media. As this blog has asked before and does again now, what is the point deciding how we vote when our votes do nothing to determine which people wield power?

All AV would do is further cement consensus politics in this country.  It will permanently shore up the elective position of the political class and further distance people from decison making power. First past the post is a lesser evil, but elections are now irrelevant anyway as laws are handed down from the EU for our toy politicians to burnish, embellish and implement without hesitation.

The vote we should have, about whether this country should fully govern its own affairs through its own democratic structures, or accept rule from overseas by bureaucrats in Brussels and accept the EU’s alien anti democratic structures, is not on offer to us. We are denied that choice.

None from the Conservatives, Labour or Liberal Democrats want the people of this country to decide for themselves and make that fundamental decision about how this country is governed. So why should we play their game and take time to vote about which system best suits the narrow political interests of those insipid groups of power seeking climbers, liars and charlatans?

A plague on all their houses.

Big Society Bank will plunder English money to fund UK activity

Back in July last year the always enjoyable patriotic Englishman Toque explained for the sake of clarity to his readers that Banque Camoron the Big Society Bank is an England-only scheme as only dormant English bank accounts will be robbed by the government to part capitalise the new gimmick.

In February this year Toque highlighted that in a speech on the subject David Cameron was failing to make clear only English bank accounts would be raided to fund the Big Society Bank.

There has been no explanation as to why dormant accounts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be left untouched by this outrageous and intrusive sequestration of funds.  Like most people, Toque had been labouring under the assumption that only English bank accounts are being plundered because the Big Society Bank will only fund English based projects.  But then he saw a comment made by Francis Maude in the House of Commons saying that:

…money put in by the banks will be for UK purposes, but the money coming into the big society bank in due course from dormant bank accounts will be for England only, unless the devolved Administrations decide to put their share of that money into the big society bank,

However a Parliamentary Written Answer published on Thursday doesn’t say that. In fact despite there being an ample opportunity to give a detailed response the answer gives the impression that as with so many pledges the government might be in the process of moving the goal posts.

When asked by Jonathan Edwards MP what arrangements the Minister for the Cabinet Office plans to put in place to fund the big society bank; and whether he expects there to be any differences in the operation of the bank in each nation or region, the Minister for Civil Society (yes, I know) Nick Hurd MP explained (my emphasis):

The Government have committed to using 100% of dormant accounts funds available for spending in England to set up the big society bank. In addition, four of the UK’s main banks have agreed to support the establishment of the bank with the injection, on a commercial basis, of £200 million of capital over two years, commencing in 2011.

We expect that the independent big society bank will have the ability to operate across the UK.

There is no sign of Maude’s caveat.  Not content with the English taxpayer being ripped off by the Barnett Formula of funding in the other home nations, we could now be seeing the Conservative-Lib Dem government taking money from English bank account holders and using it to fund Big Society initiatives outside of England after all.

No matter what happens, the message to the English from the Con-Lib coalition seems to be the same as the one from the last Labour government, shut up and pay up.

Move along taxpayer, nothing to see here

A few weeks ago this blog was preparing a post about the Committee on Climate Change and fired off a FOI request for details of funding and Committee member remuneration (more on that further down).  But after consideration it seemed the post would not provide a great deal of value and it was not published.

So it was with interest that a scan through Thursday’s Parliamentary Written Answers from Ministers turned up a reply to a question about the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) that offers the opportunity for a worthwhile post.  It was Craig Whittaker MP who asked:

…the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change whether he has made an assessment of the diversity of the range of scientific opinion on climate change that is represented on the Committee on Climate Change.

The reply was the kind of non-answer one would expect from the closed minds of those who are engaged in furthering vested interests, which singularly failed to address the point.  Surprise surprise, it is the Met Office’s protector-in-chief Greg Barker who is continuing the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) effort to shield the climate change true believers from proper accountability:

The Climate Change Act 2008 sets out a list of desirable expertise (including climate science, and other branches of environmental science), which is intended to broadly mirror the range of factors which the CCC is required to take into account in considering its advice. Taking this into account the membership of the CCC is kept under regular review with specific attention given to whether their work programme calls for additional expertise at either board level or by consulting outside when required.

I believe the current membership of the CCC contains a good mix of the relevant expertise (including scientific), and creates a committee which is focused and dynamic.

Whittaker had clearly asked about an assessment of CCC membership on the basis of the diversity of scientific opinion.  Barker’s mealy mouthed answer confirmed the composition of the CCC is based upon having a united outlook commensurate with climate change orthodoxy and the only mix being one of expertise rather than opinion.

This is the problem.  The government is not interested in scientific balance or considering viewpoints and evidence that run contrary to the so called consensus.  How can we ever have hope that new evidence or substantial doubt about the climate change creed will be looked at impartially when all the existing structures, such as the CCC, have been built on the premise that the science is settled and the debate is over?

What makes this situation all the more galling is that our tax pounds are used to fund the CCC and pay its members to maintain the status quo irrespective of anything that contradicts their beliefs.  All the members of the CCC are committed climate change advocates and have vested interests in furthering the policy agenda they themselves inform.  When you look at the CCC members you can see that science is the last thing on the mind of the government.

Take for instance the Chairman of the CCC, Adair Turner, now known grandly as Lord Turner of Ecchinswell. His biography on the CCC website describes him thus:

Lord Turner of Ecchinswell is the Chair of the Committee on Climate Change and Chair of the Financial Services Authority. He has previously been Chair at the Low Pay Commission, Chair at the Pension Commission, and Director-general Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Curiously, despite History being part of his degree, there is no mention of his previous role as a Trustee of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) who of course are infamous for their involvement in Amazongate. Turner also leaves out his role as a member of the International Climate Change Taskforce. He is doing rather well out of climate change for an Economist who also lectures part time at Bob Ward’s Gadaffi School of Economics (LSE).  Of course, any allegation of bias would be grossly unfair…

Or we could take the Chief Executive of the CCC, David Kennedy:

David Kennedy is the Chief Executive of the Committee on Climate Change. Previously he worked on energy strategy at the World Bank, and design of infrastructure investment projects at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. He has a PhD in economics from the London School of Economics.

So we have the two most powerful members of an ‘independent’ committee on a scientific subject and not one molecule of scientific experience between them.

The LSE links continue with Dr Samuel Fankhauser, Principal Fellow at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics and a Director at Vivid Economics (yes, another economist). He is a former Deputy Chief Economist of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, but now he works with Bob ‘Mad Dog’ Ward, a specialist in hectoring, ranting and misinforming while failing to refute the points made by climate realists.

Continuing the LSE linkage (albeit loosely) the CCC also has as a member the Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change’s sibling organisation at Imperial College, Professor Sir Brian Hoskins.  Not only is Hoskins a Grantham man, he is also Professor of Meteorology at the University of Reading.

Significance? Reading is one of the Met Office’s partner universities tackling ‘the problems of climate change’ and trying to ‘understand the impact of extreme weather’. Hoskins is also a Fellow of the Royal Society, who of course are infamous for having been forced by a number of scientists to admit the science of climate change is far from settled, before being forced to correct their false statements about the length of time CO2 stays in the atmosphere.

So what is the butcher’s bill for taxpaying public?  That FOI request I referred to earlier lays it bare… Just click to enlarge the following.

First we have the funding from DECC:

Then there is other public funding given to the CCC:

Then we see how much the CCC members are getting for presenting their ‘ideas’ and wheezes for tackling CO2 even though there is no evidence it has caused any of the warming that records suggest has taken place:

It’s always nice to see our money going to such a worthwhile organisation that serves its own our interests… Move along now. Nothing to see here.

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