Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

Monthly Archives: April 2011

Well, Auntie Beeb, You Know The Answer …

Cue violins…

The BBC is struggling to hire senior managers because it can no longer offer the bumper pay packets of its commercial rivals, the corporation’s director-general complained yesterday.

My loyal reader may recall me mentioning before about how the BBC pay row was proving a diversion from the fundamental issue of how the Beeb is funded. However, this latest statement from Mark Thompson actually adds to the argument for freeing the BBC from the strait-jacket of state funding.

It is quite possible that the commercial world is offering higher pay than the public sector, as much in broadcasting (even where the market is dominated by the BBC) as any other sector. Though the gap in crude pay levels may have narrowed in the last decade or so, working in the public sector has always been regarded as having additional benefits such as pensions (even if the Hutton proposals go through) and job security (which is still greater than in the private sector).

If, though, the BBC behemoth is finding it harder to fill key positions then it rather gives the lie to the idea that, as Don Foster has said, “People looking for jobs in broadcasting should know that the BBC is the greatest broadcaster in the world and worth working for”. Much as the same claim of BBC superiority of output is undermined by the apparent need to force people to pay for it.

Imagine a BBC that, while having to justify its offer to its customers rather than politicians, will also be able to pay its people what it feels right without having to answer to the same politicians. That is just one freedom that making the BBC truly independent – though genuinely and rightly answerable to the subscription-paying audience (rather than licence fee-paying serfs) – would bring.

Wrenching the BBC free from the teat of the state – viz. the compulsory TV licence fee – would prove the best move the government could make for the long term good of this national icon.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Via JuliaM:

Prisoners should be handed an anti-overdose drug when they leave jail in case they binge on heroin in their first days outside, the Government’s drug advisers said yesterday.

He wants it to be more widely used after figures showed that, on average, one in eight heroin–injecting prisoners overdose within two weeks of leaving jail and one in 200 die.

Ken Clarke

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke

So, we keep drug addicts in a supposedly secure, controlled and regimented environment, and yet we don’t take the opportunity with this literally captive audience to clean them up, fill any gaps in their often patchy basic academic and vocational skills and so ensure that they stay on the ‘straight and narrow’ once they’re on the outside?

Am I missing something here? Ah, of course, when Ken Clarke talks about reducing prisoner numbers it was by not locking them up in the first place! How could I have missed such a simple, sustainable and clearly far better solution to reducing crime?

Scraps to the Right, Scraps to the Left – But What Does Cameron Actually Stand For?

So David Cameron has delivered a speech on immigration, and the Right of the party will be in approval. Yet there is one question that sooner or later he will have to answer: does he mean it?

Only on Monday, he castigated Oxford University for not allowing in enough black students. He got his figures wrong, as it turned out, but nonetheless he was clearly making a pitch towards the liberal-left (though for now I won’t go into the many ways in which he was wrong). Today’s speech, though, does smack of a process of throwing just enough scraps to the Right to stop too many going off the reservation. (Vince Cable’s subsequent reaction might please the strategists at CCHQ). Keeping “The Right” on side will be an increasing concern of Number 10 as the coalition – specifically the Lib Dems – goes through the inevitable torture of the local elections and thus drawing ever more of Cameron’s political resources towards keeping the Lib Dem coxswain on the team.

I know that politics is more complex than the lazy Right/Left pigeon-holing that helps to fill column inches and airtime. I appreciate that there is more than one “right wing” and even the Lib Dems are a blend of classical and modern liberals. I’m sure that it is possible to be liberal on social equality but still bullish on reducing immigration. However, the jarring mix of liberal-left and traditional right-wing noises emanating from the same Prime Minister do leave one wondering how much of what he says is borne of genuine conviction – or rather, which instances are – instead of political expedience.

The worry among the Right will be reinforced by even a cursory review of the issues that David Cameron has publicly embraced: man-made climate change, grammar schools, progressive measures to tackle the deficit, and now social mobility are all pet causes of the liberal-left. More to the point, the particular ideas emerging of how to deal with these issues are anything but Conservative. One can’t help but ponder to what extent he is displaying any sort of genuine belief in a cause that is apparently divergent from that set of views, rather than falling back on a PR man’s instincts to broaden market appeal.

Even the Big Society, which more than anything one would suggest is the epitome of “Cameronism”, remains too vague a concept for the ordinary voter – or indeed party activist – to get a real handle on. Any given definition leaves too much wriggle room for any given political camp to draw either comfort or concern from. It can be read both as a path to a smaller state, or as a commitment by the state to financially support the voluntary sector. There has never been a clear, concise message from the coalition which it is to be.

So while many would like to believe that today’s speech is that of a Conservative prime minister allowing us a glimpse of where his true blue heart lies, in fact it only allows one question to niggle even more: what does David Cameron actually believe in? If he doesn’t answer it, others will.

Ranting at the Radio

Two gems from the BBC yesterday on Radio 2 at lunchtime (in my defence, Mrs C had left it on when she went out).

During a discussion on Jeremy Vine’s show about the evil Tesco diversifying into new businesses such as secondhand cars, up pops someone complaining about how they’re killing all the high streets you know with their in-store coffee shops’n’things:

“Tesco don’t care what the community wants”

Riiiight. A supermarket that doesn’t care what its customers want is one of the most successful businesses in the country. Yes, that reasoning makes perfect sense.

An hour or so later we had a news bulletin covering the conviction of a double murderer (wisely not repeated for the online version):

“A carpenter who murdered two ex girlfriends …”

These carpenters, eh? Just imagine if he’d have been a Muslim as well … oh, but of course, his religion wouldn’t have been relevant would it?

Socialism for Teenagers

Another in what is now something of an occasional series. This one is a bit of an oldie, but a goodie:

A young woman was about to finish her first year of university. Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be Labour Party minded, and she was very much in favour of higher taxes to support her education and for more government programmes – in other words, the redistribution of wealth.

UK Conservative Party poster from 1929 warning...

Oh, how they laughed.

She was deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch blue-ribbon Conservative, a feeling she openly expressed. Based on the lectures that she had attended, and the occasional chat with a professor, she felt that her father had for years harboured a selfish desire to keep what he thought should be his.

One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and the need for more government programmes.

The self-professed objectivity proclaimed by her professors must be the truth, and she indicated so to her father. He responded by asking how she was doing at university.

Taken aback, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 90% average, and let him know that it was tough to maintain, insisting that she was taking a very difficult course load and was constantly studying, which left her no time to go out and party like other people she knew. She didn’t even have time for a boyfriend, and didn’t really have many university friends because she spent all her time studying.

Her father listened and then asked, “How is your friend Audrey doing?” She replied, “Audrey is barely getting by. All she takes are easy classes, she never studies and she barely has a 50% average. She is so popular on campus; university for her is a blast. She’s always invited to all the parties, and lots of times she doesn’t even show up for classes because she’s too hung over.”

Her wise father asked his daughter, “Why don’t you go to the Dean’s office and ask him to deduct 20% off your average and give it to your friend who only has 50%. That way you will both have a 70% average, it would be fair and you would both be equal.”

The daughter, visibly shocked by her father’s suggestion, angrily fired back, “That’s a crazy idea, how would that be fair! I’ve worked really hard for my grades! I’ve invested a lot of time, and a lot of hard work! Audrey has done next to nothing toward her degree. She played while I worked my tail off!”

The father slowly smiled, winked and said gently, “Welcome to the Conservative side of the fence.”