Vir Cantium

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Monthly Archives: April 2008

I'm Sorry We Haven't a Humph

So, as the traffic warden of time slaps a ticket on the four-wheel-drive of fate, deaf to the protests of the stroppy motorist of history … we say farewell to Humphrey Lyttleton.

I’m not a big jazz follower, but have long enjoyed Humph’s work on I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue. Indeed, only on Monday Jon Naismith, the producer of ISIHAC, emailed the mailing list with the news both of the postponement of the next series following Humph’s admission into hospital, but also with the optimistic news that “Humph is otherwise fine and in very good spirits.” Sadly it was not to be.

RIP Humph.

Touting for Boys

I have never understood why some people get so worked up about ticket touts.

I seem to recall, in the dim and distant of my studies, something about the law not being there to correct the result of a bad bargain – i.e. if you freely sell your Maserati for a quid then realise your mistake afterwards – tough. Similarly if you find you’ve paid three times the face value for, say, a ticket to the footy … you’ll just have to lump it.

Or maybe not. Followers of the great Church of the Round Pig’s Bladder may have their messiah in the form of Culture Secretary Andy Burnham. (I’ll leave the issue of why we even need a culture secretary, or indeed the whole of the DCMS, for another time).

Event organisers need to do much more to ensure that tickets get to real fans instead of expensive resale websites, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said today.

The Government is now looking to event organisers, promoters and their ticket agents to work together to find new ways of making sure that tickets are properly distributed without fans routinely paying over-the-odds. These improvements can happen without the burden of new regulation, or criminalising fans who want to buy tickets for sold-out events or sell tickets that they cannot use.

“without … criminalising fans” … which rather suggests that someone has been considering making a criminal offence out of a transaction freely entered into. Of course, truth is, they are indeed considering it. This is how it works: government waves the big stick and demands that an industry “gets its act together” (the current stage). Industry maintains naïve faith in freedom to trade and free will of its customers. Government declares “self-regulation isn’t working” and intervenes to stop customers being “ripped off” … by imposing regulations, the costs of which fall on the customer.

Anyway, back to Andy:

But the Government remains concerned that some events are of such importance that some restrictions on resale may be necessary. More work will now be done to explore whether it is in the public interest to prevent resale of tickets to events of national significance.

Oh come off it. No event is of “such importance”. A football match, a concert? We’re talking about a trip to Wembley or the O2, not A&E. How many people were forced to go to the Led Zep gig?

And beware the use of the words “in the public interest”. It’s not the public who are interested … it’s usually the Treasury. Next they’ll be talking about what’s “fair”.

Andy Burnham said:
“Fans are the lifeblood of our sporting and entertainment culture, and young fans keen to get to events are often the most exploited.

That’s as maybe (but what’s it to do with the state?) In practice, though, I think you’ll find that that the majority of the “fans who are the lifeblood” of our cultural life are Sky subscribers and TV licence fee payers sat on the sofa in front the televised match. Take away the TV rights deals and where is your lifeblood of your sporting culture then?

Event owners and promoters need to work harder to ensure that real fans get tickets at a fair price. We’ve seen good examples of how this can work at major events. The whole industry now needs to take action to ensure that distribution is fair and effective.

See, I told you so. “Fair” – twice. Why is it the number of occurrences of the word “fair” in a government statement is directly proportionate to the degree of proposed restriction of a free and fair activity?

The re-selling of tickets at inflated prices doesn’t add anything to the cultural life of the country, but instead leaches off it and denies access to those who are least able to afford tickets.

If tickets are being sold at “inflated prices” then clearly someone is willing to pay those prices. It’s called supply and demand, Andy. In any case, if a ticket is “non transferable” then that is a civil issue of breach of contract. Nothing to do with government.

Not that I’m doubting that the government has the fans’ best interests at heart here, rather than the Treasury wanting to clamp down on an area of the “hidden economy”*.

Big hat-tip to Croydonian

* Note: not the “black economy”. Very un-PC. No, look, this is important – people have drawn salaries to ensure that we don’t use such evil phrases.

What year is this?

Well, we can speculate about what caretaker PM Gordon Brown said to Angela Smith last night to dissuade her from shaking his government to its foundations by … errr, resigning as a PPS.

Perhaps one thing was to promise to buy her a 2008 diary, as she still seems to be using one stuck on March 2007 – otherwise one has to ask: how did it take her so long to realise the implications of the abolition of the 10p tax band*? And yes, the same question still applies to all those other whining Labour MPs now being mugged by reality, though presumably not all those MPs have their current constituencies disappearing under boundary changes at the next election.

* Yes of course, the 10p tax band is only being abolished for earned income. There will still be a 10p band for savings income, as well as the existing 10p rate at both lower and basic bands for dividend income … under the changes which were presented as a tax simplification measure. Clear?

Remember BSE?

News came through yesterday of two cases of vCJD – aka “the human form of mad cow disease” in Spain.

Which all goes to remind us of the time a few years back when, thanks to the evil Tories and their relaxation of some farming regulations, some half a million cases of CJD were being predicted, mainly because of the widely accepted link between eating BSE infected meat and developing CJD. That was a view supported by a major enquiry that heard evidence from many prominent scientists. Much public research funding then flowed, and the cattle industry nearly collapsed.

An epidemic of vCJD did indeed materialise … at a peak of, err, 28 cases in 2000.

But that was then, this is now. Nowadays, we don’t rely on faux scientific consensus backed by governments to hammer our industries and scare people, while doubters are shouted down as ignorant heretics and condemned as being in the pay of those industries being cast as the wrong-doers.

In other news, global warming continues apace.