Vir Cantium

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Monthly Archives: September 2010

Whither the Tuppence?

Busy today, so just a quickie for now:

Sweden pays its last respects to the öre

The 50 öre, a little 3.7 gramme copper coin which since 1991 has served as the lowest denomination of the Swedish currency, the krona, was rendered expendable by Sweden’s Riksbank in December 2008. On Thursday, September 30th this decision came into effect.

So what? Well, 50 öre is worth a fraction under 5p in Her Britannic Majesty’s coinage. Now ask yourself: when was the last time you bothered to find a copper in your pocket or purse when paying for something? When do you handle such coins these days except when they’re given in change?

How long before we wave goodbye to the 1p and 2p piece?


Red Ed and William Hague: A Genuine Question

William Hague, MP

Hague: Been there, done that?

As I know very little about internal Labour Party politics (except what I pick up from the media, whose knowledge in many cases is of about the same level), I have a genuine question.

Paul Waugh apparently heard an Ed Balls supporter saying of Red Ed “He’s pretty rubbish..But at least we got one over those Blairite b*******”.

Now bearing in mind that the string of Conservative leadership contests from 1997-2004 were essentially ‘Stop Ken Clarke‘ affairs – and for ‘Ken Clarke’ read ‘Blairite’ in the Labour context – how much is there in common between Ed Miliband‘s rise to prominence and William Hague‘s?


  • Both were completely unknown to the general, non-political, public
  • Both came in after bruising electoral defeats for their parties
  • Both have the job of addressing, and maybe fixing, some aspects of their parties’ internal machinery, and
  • Both face a certain degree of play-ground standard ridicule (though I do believe that ‘Red Ed’ is a perfectly valid epithet given the trade unionist influence over his election).

Red Ed’s election may herald a lurch to the Left for Labour, just as Hague, IDS and Howard were seen to anchor the Conservatives on the Right (simplistic summaries I know, but I think that was the wider perception, accurate or not).

Just a thought.

The Equalities Industry: Where Every Day is Conference Season

As many will know who work in the public sector or are connected to it, one is regularly the recipient of junk mail and spam from various bodies flogging places at many wonderful gatherings which purport to be relevant to one’s role.

Sure enough, in the last week or so an invitation from a regular conference provider arrived in my inbox:

Hear from experts – Equality Act 2010

Dear Colleague [sic]

As you all know the Equality Act 2010 will be implemented from 1st October 2010. For this reason we will be holding the 2nd annual Making Equality Work Conference which will take place on Thursday 23rd September 2010 at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel, Kensington, London.

OK. First thing’s first. You sent me this on the 17th September. Does that it not say something about the target audience, as well as the desperation of the organisers? I don’t recall working anywhere where I can drop everything at such short notice to take off a whole day drinking coffee and munching biscuits. Perhaps it’s a dastardly plan by Eric Pickles to root out those who can do such things and so help budget-setters to draw up their ‘little lists’.

Maybe I’m being harsh, though. If it’s something of vital importance to the survival of the organisation, then it may be necessary. Let’s have a look at the conference themes (emphasis not mine):

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The GMB's Favours for Ed Miliband: Spiritual Hypocrisy

GMB (trade union)

The GMB: All's fair when it's for a brother

So it seems the GMB may have played fast and loose with the rules governing promotion of candidates in Labour’s leadership election.

The Observer reports (h/t ConHome):

Mark Wickham-Jones, professor of politics at Bristol University, was worried by the GMB’s mailout. Speaking before the result, he said: “The GMB appear to have broken the spirit of the rules guiding the conduct of the Labour party leadership election by sending out a strong recommendation for Ed Miliband together with the ballot paper for political levy payers.

Ah, so they’ve broken the spirit of the rules, but not the rules themselves. So we can assume, in the minds of the GMB’s leadership, that that’s alright then.

Hang on though, is this the same GMB who issued this press release recently:

End Tax dodging says GMB



Four resolutions from trades unions and four from Constituency Labour Parties are voted on to be debated at the Conference. This year the selected contemporary resolution will voted on at the full Conference to become party policy….

The GMB resolution calls for action on tax avoidance schemes cost the economy more than £50 billion a year.

Tax avoidance eh?. Well let’s see: the popular definition of tax avoidance (as opposed to tax evasion) is following the letter but not necessarily the spirit of the law. You, me, HMRC and the likes of Richard Murphy may each have different ideas of where the “spirit” lies, but here we have a union being quite clear about what they think of the whole practice of following the letter of the law rather than what the drafters of the rules may have intended.

As clear, in fact, as the GMB were being when they observed the letter and not the spirit of the rules when it involved getting their man, Red Ed Miliband, elected as Labour leader.

Never mind, I’m sure that when the motion is being debated at Labour’s conference, them being in the vanguard of the fight for equality and all, someone will point out the GMB’s hypocrisy over observing the letter and not the spirit of the rules!

Labour Chooses … And It's Good News

Labour have chosen Ken Livingstone to be their candidate for London Mayor in 2012. This is excellent news. It gives Boris’ team the chance to showcase their sustainability credentials by reusing the old but still effective ammunition that was so well employed last time, such as:

London Elections 2008, City Hall. Ken Livingst...

Ken giving his loser's speech in 2008. So that's one aspect of his 2012 campaign sorted already.

Financial issues at the LDA

Bloated bureaucracy at City Hall

*cough* Lee Jasper *cough*

Doubling of Council Tax with little to show for it

*cough* Al-Qaradawi *cough*

That’s just for starters. Add in a few dinosaur references and mentions of how comfortable Ken must be in the (striking) transport unions’ pockets offices and with a little luck one may well find that Robert will be your father’s brother … and Boris will still be Mayor.

Yes, I suspect “cock-a-hoop” might be a good way of describing Team Boris’ reaction to the nomination.

Update: An upbeat view of Ken’s nomination seems to be pretty common among the right-wing blogosphere today, with the likes of Iain Dale, The Lakelander and Mark Wallace (who also looks forward to an Ed Labour leadership victory) to name but a few, and Dizzy suggests we should be spared Ken’s weekly skit on LBC.

BBC Bias: One Step Forward …

Billy Joel performing in Jacksonville, Florida...

Joel good, Manford bad

Yes, I know I’m a bit behind the news here, but it seems Jason Manford has been read his future by BBC management after he spoke out against poor equipment provision for the troops recently.

In fact, he exacerbated his crime by criticising the Beeb’s coverage of the Help for Heroes concert. Now while I agree with Manford on both counts, he is now a part (albeit a semi-detached one) of the BBC collective and thus needs to mind himself when it comes to overt political activism. So, maybe some brownie points are due to the Beeb for actually doing something about bias on the part of one of its presenters, even though Manford has given no hint of any bias on his work on The One Show. Sadly though I suspect that, just like Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran (who lost their BBC parking privileges after attacking the licence fee), his real crime was to show his teeth to the mouth that is currently feeding him. Perhaps, then, we’ll suspend our praise.

One has to wonder, though, if the same finger wagging would have been directed at any public faces of the BBC who spoke out against, say, the Iraq War?

Whatever, the suspended brownie point awarded above must be forfeited thanks to the efforts of Simon Mayo’s efforts last Thursday (17th) during his Drivetime show on Radio 2.

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The Tax Gap: More Socialist Cobblers?


Haggling: Or, two men doing something immoral over sheep

Occasionally there arises a term – or to use the correct terminology, an ‘agenda’ – that is conceived and grows within a particular professional sector or group of thinkers, and which then finds its way into public policy without the public themselves ever being consulted or made aware of it. Expensive conferences might be held to discuss ‘The xxxxxx Agenda’, and bodies – usually publicly funded – will either be formed or sprout offshoots to study, engage and develop the concepts. Some people will draw good salaries and make a living on the back of such a concept. Invariably, though, such things often result in the same outcome – a more public spending, more government and less freedom.

The ‘Tax Gap’ is one of these; it is being used cynically by many to amalgamate the practices of ‘tax evasion’ (illegal) and ‘tax avoidance’ (legal) into a single definition that attempts to turn anyone who doesn’t pay the maximum possible amount of tax with joy and celebration into a threat to democratic society. Of course, it plays on the prejudice of those who think that tax avoidance is only practised by fat rich people and if only we could just plug the loopholes all would be well, the deficit would disappear and the nation could advance into a new socialist utopia.

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He's Here

Having chosen to land in Edinburgh rather than Heathrow, the Pope has arrived in the UK.

Here, we see the head of a church with millions of followers, who also acts as a head of state and is recognised and respected around the world, with someone who is not exactly a model of political correctness who has upset a good few people … and the Pope.

After today’s visit to Scotland Pope Benedict XVI will continue his tour of the UK, by travelling to Wales, Northern Ireland and England.*

* yes, I appreciate that an NI visit might be pushing things; who’d want to risk an Italian sat-nav sending the Popemobile up the Shankill Road by mistake?

On That Papal "Third World" Comment … Or, Thank God For Henry VIII


A senior Papal adviser has pulled out of the Pope’s UK visit after saying arriving at Heathrow airport was like landing in a “Third World” country.

Cardinal Walter Kasper reportedly told a German magazine the UK was marked by “a new and aggressive atheism”.

Richard Dawkins will be so bothered.

The Vatican said the 77-year-old cardinal had not intended “any kind of slight”, and was referring to the UK’s multicultural society.

Oh, so he was just talking about all the darkies at Heathrow? That’s all right then.

This, coming from a senior representative of an institution which, though 2000 years old, still seems to be stuck in the Middle Ages. A body that covers up for child molesters, lobbies against the cheapest and most effective means of stopping the spread of AIDS (i.e. condoms) – especially in, ironically, the Third World – and has also arguably added to the planet’s population problems through its anti-contraception views.

It was only last year that the Vatican grudgingly gave a positive nod to Charles Darwin, and let’s not get started on their bang-up-to-date views on the role of women.

Quite frankly, to have a senior Vatican figure accuse Britain of being like “a third world country” is like Captain Caveman declaring the Millennium Falcon to be ‘primitive’.

Incidentally, if anyone is offended by my remarks, then I apologise … blogging will be light tomorrow because of this terrible gout of mine….

Reasons To Be Cheerful … Or Miserable?

There is a tone that newsreaders adopt when announcing, for example, that crime has risen or that a company has closed with hundreds of job losses, or the death of some obscure lefty writer that virtually no-one beyond Broadcasting House or Farringdon Road has ever heard of.

I heard this tone this morning, when the BBC’s Today programme told us that bonuses in the largest companies have risen back to the levels that they were before the credit crunch:

FTSE 100 executive bonuses close to pre-crisis levels

Executive bonuses are close to their level before the financial crisis, a survey by business advisory firm Deloitte says.

It found that the average bonuses for directors of FTSE 100 firms amounted to 100% of their basic salary, rising to 140% in the top 30 public companies.

Yet surely this is excellent news? Generally speaking, if bonuses are up then that might be a sign that we’re turning the corner, economically speaking. (The accompanying point that general executive pay is not rising particularly fast suggests that directors are also exercising some healthy and measured caution.) It’s certainly good news for the Treasury, as these bonuses will be taxed at up to 70% – a much higher rate than if they have been taxed at, say, the main corporation tax rate.

So why the glum faces everyone?

P.S. No, I haven’t got time to check out the bonus levels of, say, BBC executives and how they compare to 2007….