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Category Archives: Politics

So When did the #Olympics Become a Religion?

I can’t help but be amused by this bit of Olympic news today:

London 2012 Olympics: Empty seats on the opening day prompts investigation

An investigation has been launched by the London 2012 organisers Locog after banks of empty seats were evident in multiple sporting venues on the opening day of the Games.

It looks like the sponsors are not using all their tickets. Incredible, isn’t it, that anyone would not want to go? It’s the Olympics!

Which reminds me of this earlier outrage:

Olympic relay torches put up for auction by bearers

Dozens of Olympic torches are for sale online as torchbearers are prepared to part with their prized relay memento.

The news has prompted much debate as to whether it is right that torchbearers, who were nominated for their achievements, sporting contributions and community work, should be allowed to sell their torches and uniforms after the event.

Ms Milner Simonds, from Burnham-on-Sea, told BBC Breakfast it only occurred to her on Saturday night that she could sell the torch and she was dismayed people who objected to her decision had started sending her unpleasant emails.

The theme that runs through these two stories is the apparent shock being expressed by some, that some of their fellow citizens are not fully signed up to the euphoria and blind devotion to the ‘Olympic Values’ that £9bn of our money is apparently meant to engender in us all.

Put to one side the irony that such a blatantly commercial operation as the Games should be somehow incompatible with participants looking to make a few bob (in some cases, not even for themselves, but their favourite charity). Put also out of your mind the incongruity of preaching the fluffy peace love and understanding  stuff, while at the same time seeing the Olympic authorities try to silence rivals with the zeal of an organised crime syndicate. Heck, even linking to LOCOG’s website in less than complementary terms is apparently against that site terms of use (see clause 5). The fascist numpties.

Blind devotion to a movement and its ‘values’, incomprehension that others may not share your beliefs, over-the-top responses to those who actually step out of your arbitrary parameters of acceptable behaviour … when did the Olympics turn into what is – by most definitions – a religion?

Its followers even have their own knee-jerk reactions to blasphemy against the faith:

PM urged to act over Games tweet MP
David Cameron is facing mounting pressure to condemn a Tory MP who branded the Olympic opening ceremony “leftie multicultural crap”. One post read: “The most leftie opening ceremony I have ever seen – more than Beijing, the capital of a communist state! Welfare tribute next?” Shortly afterwards he added: “Thank God the athletes have arrived! Now we can move on from leftie multi-cultural crap. Bring back red arrows (sic), Shakespeare and the Stones!”…

Labour frontbencher Michael Dugher said: “David Cameron should show some leadership and demand a full apology from Aidan Burley immediately. Burley has got form. His comments were stupid, ignorant and offensive.”

Actually, released from the 140 character strait-jacket, I think Burley has done a good job of explaining his views, but that will not satisfy the followers of the Olympic faith, or indeed that other great untouchable religion which formed one of the centre-pieces of the opening ceremony: the NHS (pbut).

P.S. For what it’s worth, I think the ceremony, from a technical viewpoint, was excellent (but then with the amount of our money Boyle had to play with, it damn well should have  been). Clearly it’s some of the choices of content I have issue with; whichever side of the debate they’re on, most people would accept that the NHS is a politically sensitive subject – so it should not have been dropped into the middle of such a ceremony.

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Frankie Boyle leaps to Vodafone’s defence

Remember the furore a few weeks ago, when Vodafone posted healthy profits but paid – gasp – no UK corporation tax?

Well, that left wing comedian firebrand Frankie Boyle – of all people – has come to their defence.

Granted, he probably wouldn’t see it that way.

However, let’s suppose that Vodafone’s CEO tweeted the following about the reasons for the zero tax bill:

We incurred the capital expenditure for reasons separate from tax and our accountants applied for tax relief on this.

You see, the main reason for Vodafone paying no corporation tax is that they had set a significant amount of capital expenditure against their taxable profits, by way of capital allowances and related reliefs*. Unless Frankie really thinks that all that investment in new tech and so on was just an elaborate tax dodge, then it is clear that Vodafone’s tax bill was reduced entirely legally, indeed using provisions set in place by Parliament.

Vodafone could have chosen not to claim the allowances, but why should they do that?

It’s a bit like Entrepreneurs’ Relief, which reduces the capital gains tax rate to 10% on distributions of reserves on the dissolution of a qualifying company – such as Frankie’s.

Frankie could have chosen to distribute those remaining reserves in his company as a dividend (paying around 36% income tax net) or even as salary (that’s just under 60%, including employer’s NI). But why should he do that?

Oh yes you do, mate. Go back a few years and you might remember the venture capitalists who pointed out that they were paying tax at a lower rate than the office cleaners. Yes, that was through treating income as capital (as you have) and using Business Asset Taper Relief – a forerunner to today’s Entrepreneurs’ Relief.**

So I applaud his use of legal means to reduce his tax bill – starve the beast and all that. The problem, for him, is that he is now clearly a hypocritical b-tard. Therefore I trust we’ll hear no more nonsense from him about tax dodging (blurring the distinction, as he and his fellow travellers do, between tax avoidance and evasion).

Pigs have evolved into a rather aerodynamic shape these days, haven’t they?

* See Christie for his usual excellent precis of the situation and demolition of yet another bunch of ‘financial’ ‘journalists’.

 

7 Ways In Which Polly is Wrong

She’s at it again, giving the Grauniad all £110,000-worth of her wisdom. This time, it’s …

The tax and finances of every citizen must be open to public scrutiny

…Taxes are the price we pay for civilisation: soon that price must become a public declaration for all.

So, let us count the ways in which Polly is wrong. This might take a while…

1. The idea that confidentiality of tax affairs is somehow a ‘cheat’s charter’ is akin to the authoritarian’s ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear’ argument – with all the corresponding ‘guilty until proven innocent’ and legal crystal ball gazing that it involves. Do we have to keep the bedroom curtains open when indulging in you-know-what, just so that everyone can see it’s consensual?

2. Exposing everyone’s tax affairs is a good thing because, quoth Polly:

Transparency underpins a culture of social justice and civic duty.

Rubbish – it underpins a culture of envy and spite and stirs up (often unjustified) antagonism, fuelled by financial and economic ignorance which is, of course, what socialism feeds off. It reinforces the sneering culture that would rather vandalise an expensive car than aspire to own it.

The ‘civic duty’ bit is code for embarrassing – or, more accurately, bullying – people into paying more than the law requires. Well, I am happy to make a prediction: that the number of Toynbee cheerleaders who publish their own tax affairs (in full) will be around the same number as those UKUncut followers who voluntarily sent extra dosh to HMRC.

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Internet Surveillance: Yes, It’s Another Round of Big Government Bingo!

OK, so far, I’ve got:

  • “combating terrorism”
  • “need to take action”
  • “serious crime”
  • “potential for saving lives”

I’ve also picked up the ‘ratchet effect’ bonus point for:

  • “There is nothing new about this….updating existing regulations.”

And for triple points the perennial:

  • “paedophile”

Of course, it’s another broken manifesto promise and another desperate attempt to pander to a perceived Daily Mail constituency (the last six years of courting the Guardian having gone so well). Today it’s the proposals to force ISPs to install equipment to monitor everyone’s internet traffic (to conform, it appears, to EU desires). It’s OK, though, they won’t be storing the contents of your emails (yet) and they will need a court order to undertake the interceptions (for now).

Indeed almost every sentence that is spoken or written in defence of the plans can be suffixed with the words ‘yet’ or ‘for now’ without negating what has been said.

I suppose we should congratulate the Home Office for so effectively house-training the Home Secretary and her team.

However, judging by the comment ratings over at the Mail, this isn’t going down too well even there.

So let us, just for the record, run through the usual rebuttals, as they cannot be repeated too often.

“If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve nothing to fear.” If I’ve done nothing wrong, why should I have to prove it? Innocent until proven guilty and all that? It’s one thing to be questioned by a police officer if I was at the scene of a crime, or close to a suspect, but to have my everyday movements monitored on the assumption, or just in case I am a criminal? Oh, and don’t patronise me by comforting me that court orders will be required before all this happens; how many such orders ever get refused?

“If you’ve nothing to hide…” another variation on the above. You may not think you’ve anything to hide today, but we live under a law that criminalises free – albeit very distasteful – speech and is open about introducing retrospective legislation.

“It’s for the children.” Yes, they have actually mentioned paedophiles in all this, because they’re on every street corner, you know, and no-one has ever been picked up and prosecuted after surfing or downloading such material. That famous episode of Brass Eye episode wasn’t satire, it was a prediction.

It’s all OK, though, because there will be some vague form of independent oversight, and it’s not going to be a central database (yet). So that’s alright then, we can trust the government’s word on that can’t we?

 

 

If Oswald Mosley Had Fought Bradford West …

Imagine an alternative universe where a by-election had been held in a predominantly white constituency, which we shall call – just randomly, because it’s somewhere in the middle of the UK – Bradford West. (I did say alternative universe, remember).

Pick a race card ... any race card

Is it just plausible that some old ‘far right’ loon like Oswald Mosley might have put the following letter out to the electorate?

To voters of Anglo-Saxon heritage and English ascendancy in Bradford West:

God Save the Queen!

I have been increasingly angered by the dishonest and desperate efforts of the Labour campaign for Joe Bloggs, to deceive you about your vote.

You should vote for him because he is “British” they say, and because he is of Anglo-Saxon background.

Leaving aside the wisdom of a party running such a campaign in a constituency which contains thousands of people of many faiths and backgrounds, and in the name of the deputy leader of the council no less, let us look as this more closely.

God KNOWS who is British. And he KNOWS who is not. Instinctively, so do you. Let me point out to all the true English countrymen and women what I stand for:

I, Oswald Mosley, do not drink foreign beer and never have. Ask yourself if you believe the other candidate in this election can say that truthfully.

I, Oswald Mosley, have fought for the Anglo-Saxon way of life at home and abroad, all my life. And paid a price for it. I believe the other candidates in this election cannot say that truthfully.

I, Oswald Mosley, tell the truth, stand up for the truth, in parliament, on radio, on television, in the face of all its enemies, without fear, however powerful the are. Even in the US Senate, by the Grace of God. The truth and Mr Blair’s New Labour are passing strangers.

I, Oswald Mosley, hold Britain’s highest civil awards. The Knight of the British Empire. What has the other candidate ever done for Bradford West let alone Britain and England?

And, with your support, and if God wills it, I want to give my remaining days in the service of all the people – Whites, English and everyone in Bradford West. I await your sincere judgement on this matter.

God Save The Queen!

Sir Oswald Mosley

With apologies to George Galloway for the plagiarism … maybe.

H/T: Skip Licker for the inspiration.

The 30% Granny Tax Trap Osborne Could Set for Labour

Well, Conservatives can take heart that at least incompetence isn’t restricted only to their own side, as a top Labour spin-doctor admits that they screwed up when they failed to vote against the cutting of the 50p tax rate.

However, it may well be too late now to repair the damage done by the incompetent handling of the gradual withdrawal of the age-related allowance (ARA) – the so called ‘granny tax’. The incompetence, however, was not to decision to withdraw it; it was a sensible move given that the significant increases in the standard personal allowance is making the ARA redundant. No, the incompetence is to miss the biggest win resulting from the move: the abolition – not imposition – of a granny tax.

The biggest negative side-effect of the ARA was the abatement mechanism: the gradual withdrawal of the allowance as the pensioner’s income approached the income limit (currently £24,000 for 2011/12). With £1 of allowance being lost for every £2 in extra income, the abatement added an extra 10p effective marginal tax rate on top of the existing 20p.*

Yes, George Osborne last week abolished the 30% granny tax.

However, thanks to the government’s slow-witted spin operation, it became regarded as the imposition of a tax. How useless does a PR operation at the highest level of domestic government have to be to manage such a disastrous inversion of the message?

Those pensioners who are only on the state pension will not be affected by the ARA withdrawal, as they will be nowhere near that abatement band. Those on more than £24k would similarly be unaffected, as they will not be benefiting from the ARA anyway. Those in the middle are being relieved of a 30% marginal tax rate. What’s not to like?

There is, at least, an opportunity here to salvage what little advantage may be left, to embarrass Labour and perhaps belatedly shore up some of the wavering support among the age bracket that is most likely to vote.

Labour will surely be tabling amendments on the ‘granny tax’. If the government spin-doctors can remove their shortest digits from their posteriors for a few minutes, then this could be legitimately presented as Labour trying to re-impose a penalty on age, a slap in the face for those who spent their working lives … blah blah blah…

I wouldn’t bank on it though. Frankly – and I shudder just typing this – Mandelson would have done a far better PR job.

* (It’s the same effect that creates a 60% rate, plus NI, between £100,000 and £114,950.

Cash for Access (Part 94) – The Answer Will Still Be Wrong

You just know that whatever answer they come up with to the latest cash for access scandal, it’ll be the wrong one.

Number 10 is now publishing the details of who Cameron entertained on government premises. Like it will make a difference to anything. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be done – of course it should; it’s public property so we have a right, within the usual reason (national security, etc.) to know what’s going on there. Apparently, Francis Maude , soon-to-be-reshuffled Cabinet Office minister, had gone some way by publishing details of meetings between ministers and lobbyists … up to June 2011, but then it stopped (though probably more through incompetence than conspiracy). Strangely, so eagerly awaited and pored over were these reports that no-one seems to have noticed that they had stopped until now.

Anyway, back to the point. There are calls for limits on the amount of donations, bans on non-individual donations (which might get traction, as it could – rightly – also include unions) and of course, the old chestnut, state funding of parties. The latter will hopefully not come to fruition, if not because of the current fiscal situation, then the fact that there is apparently no cross-party consensus on the issue … yet.

But the real issue is this – all this is mere tweaking. The fact is that the more areas that government insists on sticking its nose in, the more scope there will be for said government – of any colour – to be lobbied, cajoled, wined and dined, or otherwise pushed by the competing interests involved.

The more pies the state sticks its fingers into, the more people that will be wanting to lick said digits.

Minimum Alcohol Pricing – Today’s Headline-Chasing Silver Bullet

This morning I thought of a superb policy idea. Something that will eliminate speeding and deaths on the road. It will save the NHS billions and mean that the police can stop ‘doing traffic’ and go out and chase ‘real criminals’ … and it’s stunningly simple:

Introduce a minimum price for petrol and diesel.

I mean, the stuff’s so cheap at the moment, I really don’t know why anyone hasn’t thought of it before. Perhaps, if that’s too radical, they could slap a load of tax on fuel – that would probably work as well….

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Cameron Loses the Hilton Rudder

Steve Hilton, Downing Street’s policy ‘guru’ has left, fed up with the Whitehall machine and Europe to spend more time with his family.

The direction that Steve Hilton took the Conservative Party in was not to everyone’s taste, but at least he gave it one. Despite the capitulation to watermelon greenery, detoxification in principle was necessary, and Hilton’s euro-scepticism was credited, in part, as being a factor in Cameron’s quasi-veto back in December.

A couple of weeks ago, a conference of Conservative MPs heard from Andrew Cooper, the former pollster who is now at the heart of Number 10. His increasingly influential position is in contrast to Hilton’s; while all governments should have regard to public feeling, an increasingly prominent feature of the government in recent months has been an apparent heightened sensitivity to the headlines. Whether it’s the over-reaction to the Council prayer’s decision (which only served to open new divisions in the party) or the woolly response to the Heston bonus story, the pollsters influence on government business has been trumping whatever coherent policy direction that existed before – and that direction was pretty weak, diluted as it inevitably was y the politics of coalition and Cameron’s own antipathy to “-isms”.

Alas, with Hilton now taking his ball home with him the party’s rudder, erratic though it could seem sometimes, has finally disappeared. A government reacting to headlines and polls seems to have more in common with the last years of John Major’s. One could suggest New Labour as another comparator, but at least they had some grip on the media, rather than the other way around.

There is one consolation with this situation though – before now, Cameron’s government has been haunted not by the ghost of Margaret Thatcher’s time in power, but by Ted Heath’s – and that has nothing to do with Europe, rather the numbers of u-turns and compromises that destroy any confidence in the ability to govern.

Cameron is unlikely to be asking the electorate the question, without knowing the answer, ‘who governs Britain’. He’ll know the answer from the polls, we’ll know the answer is the polls.

So Farewell The #OccupyLSX Asylum

OccupyLSX defaced walls

#OccupyLSX revolting ... I mean, leading the revolution

This morning St Paul’s emerges from behind the human-scale petri dish that was #OccupyLSX and will be relegated to the pages of history … or, spoken of in reverential tones in two decades’ time in BBC retrospective documentaries in the same way as, not so long ago, was the Greenham Common Wimmin’s Camp. That exercise, too, proved just as pointless and ineffectual, though at least the sisters managed to keep a fairly consistent and clear message throughout their time there, in some contrast to the comparative rookies at #OccupySomewhereAnywhere-AsLongAsWeDon’tHaveToPayForIt.

I thought that as one of my first posts after my annual blogging sabbatical I would reflect on my own visit to the site – yes, I did go there and see it for myself, shortly before Christmas.

Of course, there were others like me surveying the camp, but one couldn’t help but get the impression they were viewing it not in awe, but going to see it out of a mixture of curiosity, quiet amusement and pity. I was put in mind of the old style Victorian mental asylums which admitted the general public as spectators. Surveying the poor wretches, living in their own little world, surrounded by others of the same affliction, convinced that their perception of reality was the truth … yes, I too felt I was having the same experience as those 19th century gawpers.

Ask any spectator what they thought, and the least offensive opinion could be summed up as “meh”.

OccupyLSX remember them?

Occupy St. Paul's ... remember them?

What is noticeable about the SquatLSX camp is the variety of ‘causes’ that have taken up residence there. Now to the organisers this is undoubtedly looked on as a ‘positive’ – yet in fact it only serves to dilute whatever could be loosely termed their original ‘message’. As with so many public protests of the Left, quantity trumps quality. A corner was devoted to protesting about an imprisoned Turkish socialist – what a way to get an obscure issue into the public domain than to hide it among the noise of every other trendy and tired leftist cause. And it is wholly Leftist, for all the talk from the SquatLSX organisers of representing the 99%.

Yet maybe I’m being unfair. Perhaps in the middle somewhere was the Ayn Rand bookshop, or the Ronald Reagan Memorial Tent. Perhaps the Finsbury Square satellite site is where they are holding the Friedman lectures.

I also noticed the portable loos were in place, though their presence clearly hadn’t stopped some from answering the call of nature at the door of God’s house. It was wholly unsurprising to sit in Starbucks and watch some of the nemeses of capitalism taking a seat on one of the evil capitalist comfortable sofas long enough to take advantage of the evil capitalist free wifi.

Now, once again the 99% can enjoy the magnificence of Wren’s creation without the added authentic squalor of Sir Christopher’s London that was provided by the squatters. Oh, and Starbucks can re-open their customer toilets.