Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

Category Archives: Laugh/Cry (delete as applicable)

HMRC Dictionary Dodgers

Dictionary indents.

From the current issue of “Working Together” (pdf, page 9), part of the ongoing liaison process between HMRC and accountants :

HMRC recommends you advise your clients that from 6 April 2011, customers avoiding tax by hiding money in offshore accounts could face new penalties of up to 200 per cent of any tax they may evade.(emphasis mine).

It really doesn’t instill much faith in the rule of law if even HMRC don’t know the difference between evasion and avoidance, does it?

(And that’s putting aside for a moment the point that any accountant who is aware that a client is deliberately hiding funds in order to evade tax should advise them to come clean, or refuse to act if they don’t, and is under a legal obligation then to report them in such latter cases.)

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Laugh/Cry/Emigrate (delete as applicable)

Via Guido, The Devil and the venerable Samizdata, our Aussie cousins have nailed it rather well with this satirical skit:

Quote of the Day

Just conceive the state of…one parish, in which there are eighteen different local boards for [crime prevention], each acting without concert with the other!

The “day” was 11th May 1829: Robert Peel was discussing the case for the proposed new Metropolitan Police Force in a letter to the Duke of Wellington.

Of course, such bureaucracy and silo thinking would be unthinkable these days … there would be a partnership board to co-ordinate everything.

N.B. I have cheated a bit and modernised the language: Peel actually wrote, perhaps more poetically, of “the management of the watch” instead of “crime prevention”.

The BNP’s Nick Griffin on Question Time: “Barrel”, “Fish” & “Shooting”

To be honest, I thought it was a bit of an anti-climax. Perhaps even, dare I say it, boring.

You would have thought that Griffin would have properly briefed himself, polished his answers and done his research. What we saw was that the BNP are amateurs. Just as their councillors have proven to be useless, so their leader was clearly out of his depth. Even when asked his views on the Holocaust, he failed in what many perceive to be the politician’s dark art of Avoiding The Question. As many suspected, he was given the oxygen of publicity and choked on it.

What made it somewhat boring, in my view, was that all but one of the questions were about the BNP (inevitably, I suppose). In supporting the principle of Griffin appearing (which I still do) I was rather hoping he would have his policies examined across the whole range of current issues. For instance, there wasn’t a question about the week’s major issue: the postal strikes. Such an issue would have given us a glimpse of the BNP policies beyond race and immigration – something which their spokesman on the Today programme did this morning with a short rant about privatisation that could have come out of the mouth of any CWU spokesman. It would also have revealed the inconvenient truth about the BNP: that once you strip away the immigration and race issues, you’d be hard pressed to tell the BNP from the Socialist Workers Party (or whatever they’re calling themselves this month).

Even so, it did give many people a laugh when Griffin defined indigenous Britons as those who have been here for 17,000 years. And that is often the best way to deal with these people: sometimes mockery is a far more powerful weapon than any form censorship or intellectual dissection.

Update: As KRO notes, the BNP’s website (you can work out the address, I’m not helping their Google rankings) has become strangely truncated.

You’re Wrong! You’re All Wrong I Tell You!

This just in from our correspondent in cloud cuckoo land (a.k.a. the Number 10 bunker):

Mr Brown says … that it is “simply not true” that tough years lie ahead.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the Prime Minister insists that he is optimistic about the future and predicts strong growth over the next 12 months.

“If you have a growth policy for Britain, get unemployment down, get the economy moving forward, then Britain can have upgrowth,” he says.

His remarks will surprise many economic experts, whose growth forecasts are far less optimistic. He is also likely to face Tory claims that he is failing to be “honest” with the public.

“Upgrowth”? Is that, like, the opposite of “negative growth”? Doubleplusgood then!

Whatever Gordon Brown is on*, can I have some?

In the meantime, I have an appointment with a roll of draught excluder.

(* Sorry – I forgot we’re not supposed to discuss that subject)

Obama: Peace Prize Winner

No, really. President Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize. Not bad considering he’s only nine eight months into the job.

He was awarded it for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples.” Ah yes, I remember.

Clearly a far more deserving choice than front-runner Morgan Tsvangirai – I mean, what has he ever done for ending strife and conflict in a politically unstable part of the world?

Oops … I think I broke the irony meter there.

Political Correctness Gone Vansinnig*

I think I can safely declare that when we Conservatives talk of Swedish-style schools, we are not referring to this little gem:

Toys”R”Us scolded for gender discrimination

US-based toy retailer Toys”R”Us has been reprimanded for gender discrimination following a complaint filed by a group of Swedish sixth graders about the store’s 2008 Christmas catalogue.

Last winter, a sixth grade class at Gustavslund school in Växjö in south central Sweden reported Toys”R”Us to the Reklamombudsmannen (Ro), a self-regulatory agency which polices marketing and advertising communications in Sweden ….

According to the youngsters, the Toys”R”Us Christmas catalogue featured “outdated gender roles because boys and girls were shown playing with different types of toys, whereby the boys were portrayed as active and the girls as passive”, according to a statement from Ro.

The group’s teacher explained to the local Smålandsposten newspaper that filing the complaint was the culmination of more than two years of “long-term work” by the students on gender roles.

Thumbing through the catalogue, 13-year-old Hannes Psajd explained that he and his twin sister had always shared the same toys and that he was concerned about the message sent by the Toys”R”Us publication.

“Small girls in princess stuff…and here are boys dressed as super heroes. It’s obvious that you get affected by this,” he told the newspaper.

Their work done with the next generation, I suppose our liberal Swedish cousins will be going for the monkeys next.

(* “Mad” … in case you hadn’t guessed!)

This Could Get Messy

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Alas, I am having to resign myself to the inevitable truth. I was unaware until now, but I have little choice. I must leave you all …

It seems that, according to the Government’s immigration Britishness Test, I am not British enough to reside in this country. My score of 66% missed the pass mark of 75%.

I shall therefore go back to where I came from.

I warn you, though, it will require some surgery to send the relevant fractions of me back to Scotland, Wales and various parts of England from whence various branches of my family have originated.

Oh, if only I’d been even more of a news junkie than I am already, I would have been able to pass the acid test of what it means to be a true subject of Her Majesty … like “What proportion of the UK population have used illegal drugs at one time or another?” (apparently it’s a third, not a quarter, you dirty foreigner!)

Or knowing the legal minimum that a school must be open for – having never yet served on my council’s Children and Young People’s Policy Development & Scrutiny Committee, my incorrect answer of 170 days condemned me.

Or being aware that women have had the right to divorce their husbands since 1857, not 1901 (a right that Mrs C may now have to exercise, if she married me under the false impression that I was a pureblooded Brit).

So, if you’ll pardon me, I’ll get me coat….

You Couldn’t Make It Up (No. 42)

Like most people, I am not keen on wasting time sitting in traffic jams. Therefore I’ve decided that I must have a dedicated lane for myself, John Prescott style, between my home and the Civic Centre – paid for, of course, by the taxpayer. Since I can’t get it on expenses (ah yes, councillors’ expenses: not as exciting as you might think) I am going to have to develop a “psychological aversion” to waiting in traffic. That’ll work. Not.

However, that is the justification for the additional demand for more sites for travellers and gypsies, which feed into proposed new targets that could be incorporated into the London Plan. This is over and above existing demand arising from overcrowded sites, “unauthorised encampments” and the like. The definition of this additional demand for gypsy and traveller sites comes straight from government guidance which defines such need as – and I quote – “a psychological aversion to bricks and mortar housing”. Quite how such finicky tastes in architecture can carry such weight in the formulation of housing strategy is beyond me, since I suspect the preference isn’t likely to be for trendy glass and steel, wattle and daub or “green” methods of construction.

I’d like to think, in my innocence, that someone in the civil service has an ironic sense of humour, and put the definition into a draft document in a facetious vein. Sadly, however, the civil service doesn’t do humour, so it stayed in, and thus will probably generate a goodly amount of work for both the equalities and town planning industry for years to come.

The research that gave rise to the targets was commissioned via the pre-Boris Greater London Authority, and it may be too much to hope that any post-May 2008 purge has reached as far into the beast as to remove those Livingstone-ites responsible, so once again we in the Boroughs must man the barricades.

I’ve left the best ‘til last, though: there has been no public consultation on the proposed targets. Even the London Borough councils have not been invited to comment. Instead the targets and their questionable justification will be buried incorporated into the draft London Plan which will, of course, be consulted upon, along with the myriad of other issues that it throws up, such as green belt, housing densities, parking standards, and so on. It’s quite possible that the first time the ordinary resident becomes acquainted with the “psychological aversion to bricks and mortar housing” will be when a groups of sufferers set up on a previously green field near their home, and the planning inspector allows it to carry on, because targets have to be met.

Socialism: A Children's Guide

At a dinner party recently (oh, how very Islington), we were relating our former school experiences. There, a friend told us the following true story.

At pre-school one day, the class were given some plasticine and, this being one of those hippy let-the-kids-do-whatever type of schools, let them get on with it. Our friend decided to sit and carefully rolled and moulded his plasticine into a near perfect uniform ring. Very proud of it he was too. Most of his classmates, on the other hand, had spent most of the time messing around, testing the ballistic qualities of the substance, being generally “expressive” and losing most of it.

Eventually one of the timewasters piped up to the teacher. “Miss, he’s got more plasticine than us”, addressing our young friend.

“Well, of course”, thought our hero, “I’ve been working on it and making something, not wasting it.”

Yet, far from the teacher explaining the value of this diligent behaviour, took our friend’s plasticine and divided a load of it up to distribute evenly – “fairly” no doubt – among the rest of the class. Our friend was gutted, such that the experience has stuck in his mind for the rest of his (so far) quarter-odd century of life.

Now some on the Right have had a sneaking suspicion that the teaching profession might be, on average, leaning to the left of the political spectrum. Just a teensy bit. It’s not that we all think that socialist indoctrination is a core module in the national curriculum, but that a statist ethos might run through much of the educational establishment.

Yet this story isn’t about right-on lefty teachers. As it happens, the teachers I do know personally fall pretty evenly into either the Lib Dem or (closet) Conservative camps. Not too many Labour ones showing their colours right now though. Funny that.

No, the story is a near perfect allegory of socialist thinking, from the unwarranted redistribution of carefully husbanded resources, through the failure of authority to protect the deserving, to the rewarding of sloth, imprudence and irresponsibility.

Here endeth the lesson.