Please can we keep the Scots? I’m fairly sure they drive the average IQ up, at least compared to the English Parliament nutters…
Mr Eugenides is an extremely offensive and ranty, but also highly entertaining and generally honest, blogger. I disagree with him on most things, and sometimes feel that his commentary on female Labour MPs’ stupidity goes beyond the stick they deserve for their actions into misogynistic territory, but overall he’s a principled and reasonable right-libertarian.
Unfortunately, he’s decided to go on holiday and put his mates Carpsio and Moai in charge. I say unfortunately because, in three posts they’ve made, they’ve managed to fall for three of the most obvious and ridiculous libertoonian [*] myths:
1) “the government is evil to small businesses by making them pay for maternity leave. The government should reimburse companies for maternity pay. But they won’t, the bastards”.
Fact: they do. Moai’s suggestion would be worse than the status quo, as it’d only help tax-paying profitable businesses and not start-ups.
2) “the BBC and the Guardian are evil lying scum for suggesting that Ofcom condemned the Global Warming Swindle documentary”.
Fact: Ofcom found that the programme was unfair, partial, and misrepresented significant views on the subject. It rejected the complaint that the programme had ‘materially misled’ the audience. So that’s OK then.
3) “Everyone who dies of malaria dies because of Rachel Carson, because she got DDT banned”
Fact: DDT has never been banned for use against malaria. Rachel Carson only sought to get DDT banned for use as an agricultural pesticide, partly because that use made it less effective as an antimalarial drug. Everyone serious in the malaria field accepts that this is the case, even the ones who aren’t hippies.
On the plus side, the superb Reactionary Snob has also been drafted in. Hopefully he’ll address the balance a little…
Update: commendably, Carpsio was extremely quick to correct post #3. No sign as yet on the maternity pay one…
[*] libertoonian = someone who became a libertarian because they’re grumpy about how the Metro says their tax money is wasted and hate politicians, rather than because they believe that political theory and history shows a minarchist state is the best way to maximise the general happiness of the people.
Unfortunately, the comments indicate why we’re never going to get anywhere with the criminal justice system, other than locking up more people for being black and scary with no discernible benefit to anyone – the complete and utter cognitive dissonance of the public on the issue.
This is a shining example:
On the issue of violent crime per se, the statement that Sunny made that ‘overall violent crime has decreased by 41% since a peak in 1995′ is not believable.
Sunny, never understimate ‘common sense’. People have a fairly good idea of what is going on around them ….
Nonsesne. Common sense is the most overrated tool in the box and the cause of most stupid actions; and people have absolutely fuck all idea of what is going on around them. If you trust some random members of the public over the wider body of academic research on any issue, then you’re almost certainly wrong and definitely an idiot.
Unfortunately, most people on most issues trust random members of the public over the wider body of academic research, because most people aren’t very bright. Never mind that the conclusions it leads them to are entirely wrong; at least it saves them having to think…
Mark Easton at the BBC has a superb piece that’s saved me the effort of doing my normal thing (dammit!) – he’s looked at the actual statistics and discovered that knife crime is up slightly in some ropey bits of London, and not at all elsewhere.
A very sensible point that Mr Easton makes, as also made coherently and provocatively by Dave Osler at Liberal Conspiracy, is that the massive and deranged overhyping of the non-event that is knife crime is only going to encourage kids to carry knives, because they’ll be a) worried that they’ll get knived and b) keen to stick it to the patronising idiots who think that knife-carrying is The Worst Thing Ever.
Unsurprisingly, David Cameron’s take on the whole issue is to demand that anyone found carrying a knife should be jailed with no exceptions. I’m sure that the picnic-goers and sausage-cutters of the world will be reassured by that one…
(and yes, Mr Cameron suggests the police should ‘use discretion’ in deciding who to prosecute. This is not the way the law works, and not the way the law should work – if something is a crime, then everyone who does it should be prosecuted; if it is not, then no-one who does it should be prosecuted. The police’s job is to enforce the law, not to decide when to enforce it and when to ignore it.)
Meanwhile, in a sane parallel universe somewhere, the only worry people have about crime is why we waste so much time and so many lives on sending people to jail, when [pointed hyperbole] crime is completely trivial and not-worth-bothering-with [/pointed hyperbole]. Unfortunately, on this earth people don’t understand statistics but do understand emotivised tabloid nonsense… roll on the teleporter.
There’s a great deal of controversy and bitterness over whether the parasitical Scots steal money from the hard-working English to spend on whisky and deep-fried Mars bars, or whether in fact the evil colonial masters are stealing the Scots’ money to fritter away on Pimms and linen suits.
The problem is, despite the statistical data on where tax revenues are generated and where they end up, there’s no answer to the question of who’s right.
If you believe North Sea oil belongs to the Scots [*], then it’s clear that the Scots are subsidising the English, as annual North Sea oil tax revenues of £9bn for 2006/07 are way in excess of the Barnett payments of £7.5bn. If you believe North Sea oil is a shared resource between all citizens of the UK,
then it’s equally clear the English are subsidising the Scots.
Since the answer to that question is dependent on one’s beliefs about political philosophy, equity and the nature of nation states, and also on unresolved questions about the UK’s constitutional status, it’s hardly bloody surprising that the controversy exists…
[*] i.e. if you believe that oil reserves should be allocated between England and Scotland based on the Law of the Sea, which under most estimates would give the vast majority of oil to Scotland.
Also, now that the Sharpener is back up, I’m going to try and get back into the habit of putting my political stuff up there, and random finance / transport / IT geekery / lifestyle stuff on here. Whether that will improve either place is a question for thee and not for me…
1) you believe that people should go to jail and be registered as sex offenders for owning pictures of consensual bondage; or:
2) you should sign this petition.
It ought to be pretty obvious that banning drinking in a place is completely different from banning drunken louts from a place.
If you ban drinking in a place, it prevents people who aren’t louts but fancy a beer from having one, while doing absolutely nothing to prevent louts who are drunk from causing a nuisance (even if the drinking legislation were actually enforced against groups of rowdy chavs, which it won’t be).
If you actually want to stop drunken loutery, then you need to ensure that drunken louts are arrested, under the existing laws that provide a perfectly good arsenal of charges and punishments against rowdies, harrassers, disorderly conductors and affrayists. You don’t impose a new measure to punish the law-abiding.
Hence, the only two reasons to support Mr Johnson’s impending ban on drinking on the Tube are:
1) a belief that alcohol is inherently wrong and its consumption should be impeded wherever possible; or
Neither of these are attractive traits, so it’s worrying that the plan is seen as a vote-winner…
Side note: the ban appears to advertised as “making everyone’s journey more pleasant”. Since it will very clearly make journeys less pleasant for those who enjoy drinking while on a journey, this is clearly false advertising, and I’d urge everyone who sees such a poster to report it to the ASA.
A non-Londoner asked me on Saturday what I thought Boris Johnson would be like as London mayor.
I said that I really didn’t know, which was the main reason I hadn’t voted for him (I also can’t stand his Wooster-ish public persona, but I’m quite happy to vote for someone I don’t personally like if they’ve got the right policies and record) – but that there would be a few indicators very soon that would almost certainly give us the answer, and that the most important will be whether he sacks transport commissioner Peter Hendy and London Underground MD Tim O’Toole.
Aside from Ken Livingstone, Hendy and O’Toole were the most important people driving the massive improvement in London’s public transport that has happened over the last eight years.
Ken managed to wrangle the money out of Whitehall; Peter Hendy made the new schemes happen (he was running London Buses throughout the period while they turned from Utterly Bloody Useless to Really Really Good); while Tim O’Toole stopped the Underground from falling over despite everything. They have built a team at TfL that works, and that would continue to massively benefit Londoners if it were to remain in place.
If Johnson were to sack Hendy and O’Toole because of their assocations with Ken, bendy buses, congestion charges and other sensible but unpopulist things, then that would have an immediate, significant, real and negative impact on London.
If he were to keep them in their posts, not only would the effects on transport be good – it would highlight a more general willingness to accept the good things that the old regime brought, and to put London’s needs above petty point-scoring.
So, which is it going to be?
Conservative Assembly Member for Ealing Richard Barnes quoted here appear to think that sacking them would be a Good Idea (how dare anyone “make life unpleasant for motorists”, would seem to be his main point), and is tipped to be Johnson’s deputy.
Justin is looking for constructive suggestions on what Labour could possibly do to get over their steamrollering. Mine include:
1) keep the 21% basic tax rate; abolish tax credits; and use the money saved by abolishing the 10p band to raise the personal allowance;
2) abolish NI and raise the basic and higher tax rates to compensate [this helps part-time workers, who don't earn enough to pay income tax but are currently forced to pay NI anyway];
3) assume an acceptable public sector deficit level of 5% this year and 8% for 2009. Keep spending flat as a % of GDP and use any “surplus” cash to further raise the income tax threshold
4) Bring in a few daft-but-populist-and-fairly-cheap things: halt post office closures (even though nobody uses them, they clearly have talisman value to Middle England); bring back matrons (this probably involves renaming ’senior charge nurses’ to ‘matrons’ or similar); raise the state pension by a few bob; accept that the justice system is too beholden to the tabloids to get prison numbers down so build more (small, local) prisons; etc.
5) change the electoral system to make sure the Tories don’t get as much power as Labour had if they win: introduce some kind of PR (probably a Scottish Parliament kind of thing), create more elected mayors, devolve more central responsibilities to local authorities, give the GLA the same responsibilities as the Welsh Assembly (double-bonus: short-term, you look statesmanlike for handing power over to Boris; long-term, you get even more PR benefits when he messes up…)
However, I don’t think they’ll be anywhere near enough. There’s a small possibility that David Cameron is the Tories’ Neil Kinnock, and Labour will just scrape in at the next general election amid concerns over his competence despite popular loathing for the incumbent party, but it’s more likely based on last night’s results that the Tories will win next time.
…which brings me to my main point: Gordon Brown’s worst political move, both in terms of the Labour Party and his own legacy, was calling off the snap election last autumn. Even at the time, it was clear that he had a chance of winning – but it’s become clear since that losing would have also been a better option that what really happened.
Imagine if a minority Tory government, with limited and unofficial Lib Dem backing, had just taken power to be battered by the credit crunch, Northern Rock, rising fuel bills and House Price Carnage. Labour could have confidently and straight-facedly played the “if only the people who knew what they were doing, and who gave you 10 years of prosperity and good times were in charge” card. It would have worked, even if the Tories had only floundered as much on NR as Labour actually did (i.e. for a couple of months before doing the right thing).
With an inexperienced, toff-ish team trying to battle against a worsening global economy, with Labour attacking them on everything they did, with some of the press still vaguely on the Labour side (remember, nine months ago every commentator in the press didn’t hate Gordon Brown), with flaky Liberal support and with the Old Tory / New Tory divide re-emerging, the chances of lasting out for a five year term would be pretty damn limited. The prospects for an old hand coming back to take charge of Labour at the emergency post-collapse general election (Jack Straw PM, anyone?) would be looking pretty bright…
Instead, we’ve got two years of collapsing farce followed by five – probably ten – years of Tory misrule to look forward to. Luckily, I’m just about eligible as a skilled migrant under New Zealand’s point-based immigration scheme …