How UK voters are moving

April 18th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar


An interesting graphic from the UK.

You can see how Conservatives are losing most of their support to UKIP. A wee bit to Labour.

Labour has lost support to UKIP, Conservatives and Greens.

Lib Dems are bleeding everywhere.

All the polls are still predicting a hung Parliament, with the SNP, Lib Dems and Irish possibly being needed to govern.


A UK lobbying scandal

February 24th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Two former British Foreign Secretaries are exposed for their involvement in a new “cash for access” scandal.

Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind offered to use their positions as politicians on behalf of a fictitious Chinese company in return for payments of at least 5000 ($10,231) a day.

Straw, one of Labour’s most senior figures, boasted he operated “under the radar” to use his influence to change European Union rules on behalf of a commodity firm paying him 60,000 a year. He has been suspended from Labour following the disclosures, described by the party as “disturbing”.

Straw claimed to have used “charm and menace” to convince the Ukrainian Prime Minister to change laws on behalf of the same firm. Straw also used his Commons office to conduct meetings about possible consultancy work – a potential breach of rules. And he suggested his Commons researcher had worked on his private business matters, raising further questions.

Rifkind, who oversees Britain’s intelligence agencies on behalf of Parliament, said he could arrange “useful access” to every British ambassador in the world because of his status.

The senior Conservative told undercover reporters from the Telegraph and Channel 4’s Dispatches, to be broadcast today, he would submit questions to ministers on behalf of a paying client, without revealing their identity.

Rifkind also described himself as “self-employed” and had to “earn my income” – despite being paid 67,000 by the taxpayer for his work as an MP. The disclosure that two of Britain’s most senior politicians are embroiled in a new “cash for access” scandal highlights Parliament’s failure to address the issue which has plagued British politics for a generation.

MPs should not accept payment for any sort of lobbying or representation. If the 67,000 pounds a year is not adequate income, then they should leave Parliament and become full time lobbyists. But you can’t and shouldn’t do both.

One problem the UK has is that they have so many MPs, there is not enough meaningful work for all of them to do. Those who have previously been Ministers and are unlikely to be Ministers again often disengage from parliamentary work. One solution is reducing the number of MPs. The Conservatives tried to do this, but were blocked by Labour and the Lib Dems.

A rule of thumb for the ideal size of a lower house is the cube root of the population. This suggests the UK needs 400 MPs, not 650.


Boris backs Kiwis to work in the UK

November 5th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

London Mayor and parliamentary hopeful Boris Johnson is backing a report by a British think-tank which calls for New Zealanders and Australians to freely live and work in Britain.

Mr Johnson has written a foreword to a Commonwealth Exchange report which calls for Kiwis and Australians to be given the same rights to travel and work in the United Kingdom as people from the European Union. …

It recommended establishing a “bilateral mobility zone” which would allow Kiwis and Aussies to travel and work in Britain and Britons to travel and work reciprocally in those two countries. A similar argument was made for Canada.

Sounds a great idea.

For those who argue NZ would be swamped by British workers, well look at the benefits of CER where we have an open labour market with Australia.

It won’t happen of course, but is a good idea.

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The purge of the middle aged men

July 16th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

David Cameron has completed his biggest reshuffle in office, demoting the trouble-making Michael Gove to chief whip, installing the Eurosceptic Philip Hammond as foreign secretary and promoting two more women to the cabinet.

The prime minister has cleared out a dozen middle-aged and older men from his ministerial ranks in order to create a more female and less privileged top team. The strategy behind the shake-up is being attributed to Lynton Crosby, Cameron’s election adviser, as the party seeks to make itself look more representative of society before the election.

The size of the reshuffle is huge. Almost every major portfolio affected.

However, there are already signs of a backlash within the party about the scale of the sackings. Among the centrists, there is unhappiness about the departure of Dominic Grieve as attorney general, who has stood up for the European court of human rights

No wonder he went. The ECHR is massively unpopular in the UK.


Two UK jail terms

July 5th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Rolf Harris gets 69 months for 12 offences against young girls, and Andy Coulson gets 18 months for phone hacking.


What did the Brits ever do for us

June 15th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Oliver Hartwich writes on the impact of Britain on the world:

There is something that is undoubtedly special about Britain. It is not just a small, rainy island in the North Atlantic. It is not just another mid-sized northern hemisphere country. In many ways, Britain has been, and still is, much more than that.

Other countries may also lay claim to some socio-political developments or scientific inventions, but none other could boast to have started modernity with the same justification.

It was Britain in which monarchs first had to respect the rights of the people and of parliament. Magna Carta and the Glorious Revolution paved the way towards liberal parliamentary democracy. Britain was the birthplace of the Enlightenment, which was a prerequisite of scientific discovery in the age of invention, the industrial revolution and the development of economic thinking.

The Common Law, developed since the Norman invasion, had become an important tool in the promotion of a commercial society. The protection of property rights and freedom of contract were at the heart of this British version of law.

Taken together, the UK made the modern world, it dominated it until around the time of the Great War, and it still wields incredible soft power to the present day. Britain’s greatness is not just a historic feature. It still makes Britain a special country today, not least because of the spread of the English language.

For example, ask yourself where the world gets its news from, and a large part of the answer would be from the BBC, the Financial Times and The Economist.

Other countries may produce better cars, more efficient machinery and certainly more palatable wine than but few others would be better at selling their ideas, culture and beliefs to the world. 

The world would be a very different and far worse place today, if it were not for Britain. And there are not many other countries you can say that about.


Does UKIP doing well mean they will leave the EU?

April 30th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Iain Martin writes at the Telegraph:

YouGov for The Sunday Times yesterday asked voters how they would vote in the event of a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. Despite the country being, according to Ukippers, on the brink of a revolution which will bring down the entire political Establishment and liberate Britain from the LibLabCon tyranny, the numbers suggest that Britain wants to stay in the EU.

Asked how they would vote in an in/out referendum, 40 per cent said they would vote to stay in, 37 per cent said out, 18 per cent don’t know and 5 per cent would stay at home watching Cash in the Attic. Obviously a lot to play for, with as you might expect, a large number of don’t knows. Still, the inners are in front, despite all the recent excitement related to the European elections.

And look at the result when a second question was asked.

“Imagine the British government under David Cameron renegotiated our relationship with Europe and said that Britain’s interests were now protected, and David Cameron recommended that Britain remain a member of the European Union on the new terms. How would you then vote in a referendum on the issue?”

In such circumstances, 50 per cent say they would vote to stay in, 26 per cent to leave, 18 per cent don’t know and 5 per cent would stay at home watching the repeats of Location, Location, Location which (I’m told) follow Cash in the Attic.

So it could go either way if no renegotiation, but will stay in if there is one.

A caveat applies, of course. Perhaps Cameron would not get a renegotiation, with other major EU countries perhaps being incapable of seeing that unless there is a major shift in how the EU is structured one of its key members (the UK) could decide to try something else instead. 

It takes only one other country to block it, but if they do so then they will be responsible for the likely departure of the UK.

What I think we will see is a two-tier EU. One bloc being committed to full integration, and another to a less binding set of rules.

Before the hardliners from among the Ukip hordes – increasingly almost as intolerant of dissent as hardline Scottish nationalists, I note – denounce me as a traitor to my country, I want to make it clear that I am a moderate Eurosceptic who cherishes European culture but thinks the EU as currently constituted is bloated and bossy. In the event of a referendum I am persuadable, based on the arguments laid out by the inners and the outers, although like many people, I particularly hate being shouted at by golf club bar bores. I’m perfectly prepared to accept that the UK could have a successful and bright future trading as either an associate member of the EU or completely outside it with free trade agreements, if the outers explain, calmly, how the numerous obstacles might be overcome.

I have a similar view.

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Arrested for quoting Churchill in England

April 30th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

A candidate in the European elections has been arrested after making a speech quoting from a book by Winston Churchill about Islam.

Paul Weston, chairman of the far right Liberty GB party, was making the speech on the steps of Winchester Guildhall, Hampshire, on Saturday, when a member of the public complained to police and he was arrested.

He had been reading from Churchill’s book The River War, written in 1899 while he was a British army officer in Sudan.

Mr Weston, who is standing as a candidate in the South East European elections on May 22, was detained after he failed to comply with a request by police to move on under the powers of a dispersal order made against him and he was arrested on suspicion of religious/racial harassment.

It’s quite outrageous.

Just as David Irving should be allowed to talk in public on how he thinks the Holocaust is a hoax, people should be allowed to speak in public about their dislike of particular religions.

I’m damn sure if someone was making a speech attacking Christianity, they would not be arrested.

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Some UK poll results

February 4th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Been doing the monthly polling newsletter, and in reading the results of the UK polls, noticed some interesting questions this month. results include:

The Labour Party has announced that if it wins next year’s election it will increase the top rate of income tax to 50p for people earning more than £150,000 a year. If Labour does come to power and does increase the top rate of income tax, what do you think will happen in practice?

16% say it raise a significant amount of money and 71% say rich people will find ways to avoid paying the tax and it will raise very little extra money.

Currently people are allowed to use “reasonable” force to defend themselves and their home against a burglar or intruder. Some people have suggested that the law should be changed to allow people to use whatever force they see fit to defend themselves and their home against a burglar or intruder. Would you support or oppose changing the law to allow people to use whatever force they see fit to defend themselves and their home against a burglar or intruder?

An astonishing 75% support no limit on what force can be used to defend a home with only 17% against. And specifically on lethal force:

Do you think it is or is not acceptable for someone defending their home to use force that causes the death of a burglar or intruder?

60% support lethal force and only 26% against. Even Labour voters are 55% in favour and 30% against.

The Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow recently said he always thought about sex upon meeting a member of the opposite sex, saying ‘Sex comes into every evaluation of a woman, there’s no doubt about it. It’s there,’

When you meet a member of the opposite sex, do you think about what they would be like to make love to?

36% say they do and 60% say they do not. But broken by gender it is 56% of men do and only 18% of women!

If a referendum were held on the UK’s membership of the European Union with the options being to remain a member or withdraw, how do you think you would vote?

52% say they would vote to leave and 34% to remain. 62% of Conservatives favour leaving, 40% of Labour and 36% of Lib Dems.

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Cameron on fracking opponents

January 16th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

Many opponents of gas fracking are “irrational” and simply “can’t bear the thought of another carbon-based fuel”, David Cameron said on Tuesday.

The Prime Minister attacked people who he described as “religiously opposed” to shale gas exploration.

He said that fracking is a “real opportunity” for Britain and that it could solve our gas needs for decades to come.

Opponents do tend to have a near-religious belief that any use of Earth’s natural resources is spiritually wrong, and must be opposed.

Mr Cameron said: “There are, though, some people who I think are opposing shale because they simply can’t bear the thought of another carbon-based fuel being used in our energy mix and I think that is irrational because it’s surely better for us to be extracting shale safely from our own country rather than paying a large price for having it imported from around the world.”

He added: “I think that’s why some people are so religiously opposed to it because they just don’t want to see any carbon-based energy work. I don’t think that’s helpful.”

Or rational.

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How not to get shot by the Police

January 10th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The family of Mark Duggan reacted with fury and anguished disbelief yesterday after an inquest jury found that he was lawfully killed but did not have a gun in his hand when a police marksman shot him fatally in the chest.

After three months of heated and sometimes contradictory evidence, the panel of seven women and three men decided by a majority of eight to two that the killing that sparked the worst riots in postwar Britain had been within the bounds of the law. …

Amid anguished outbursts in the courtroom from family members, jurors found by a majority of nine to one that the 29-year-old, who was believed by police to have been an active member of a criminal gang, had thrown clear the gun he had collected from an underworld quartermaster as the minicab in which he was travelling was stopped by armed Scotland Yard officers in Tottenham in August 2011.

If armed Police stop the taxi you are being driven in, don’t jump out and start running. And when they yell out “Stop” and “Put it Down”, then it is best to stop, even if you have already thrown the gun away.


The UK Internet Filter

January 9th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The New Statesman reports:

There is no porn filter, and blocking Childline is not an accident

The idea of an internet porn filter has always been a political fiction, a conveniently inaccurate sound bite used to conjure images of hardcore fisting and anal rape in the feverishly overactive imaginations of middle Britain. What activists actually called for – and ISPs were forced to provide – is an ‘objectionable content’ filter, and there is a vast, damp and aching chasm between the two.

The language of the mythical ‘porn filter’ is so insidious, so pervasive, that even those of us opposed to it have been sucked into its slippery embrace. And so even when it turns out that O2 are blocking the Childline and Refuge websites, or that BT are blocking gay and lesbian content, we tend to regard them as collateral damage – accidental victims of a well-meaning (if misguided) attempt to protect out children from the evils of cock.

But this was no accident. It is a good lesson of why filtering is best done by individuals.

Working through secretive negotiations with ISPs, the coalition has put in place a set of filters and restrictions as ambitious as anything this side of China, dividing the internet into ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ categories, and cutting people off from huge swathes of it at the stroke of a key.

“As well as pornography, users may automatically be opted in to blocks on “violent material”, “extremist related content”, “anorexia and eating disorder websites” and “suicide related websites”, “alcohol” and “smoking”. But the list doesn’t stop there. It even extends to blocking “web forums” and “esoteric material”, whatever that is. “Web blocking circumvention tools” is also included, of course.”

And the restrictions go further still. Over the weekend, people were appalled to discover that BT filters supported homophobia, with a category blocking, “sites where the main purpose is to provide information on subjects such as respect for a partner, abortion, gay and lesbian lifestyle, contraceptive, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.”

These filters are automatically applied to all ISP accounts, unless you specifically ask to be exempted. It shows the dangers of allowing a filter for one sort of material, and then seeing it gradually get extended elsewhere. I believe you should prosecute those who upload or download illegal material, but you should not force ISPs to filter the Internet.

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Not a bad idea

September 2nd, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Financial Times reports:

new runway at Heathrow airport would be a quarter-owned by local residents under plans submitted to the commission examining the future of Britain’s airports.

The idea, put forward by the Co-operative wing of the Labour party, would be a novel way to reduce the formidable local opposition to the project.

But the Co-op idea goes much further and proposes the setting up of a mutual runway trust with a 25 per cent stake in the project.

Not only would the trust be involved in business decisions related to the runway, it would also benefit from the “inevitable considerable profit” generated. The trust would have the freedom to invest in community projects or initiatives to benefit local people.

Gareth Thomas, chair of the Co-op party – which counts 32 Labour MPs among its members, including shadow chancellor Ed Balls – said one private company should not own the whole runway “lock, stock and barrel”.

Under his proposals, the trust would be modelled on a building society or foundation hospital, with a board of local council leaders and a professional executive, supported by a governing council of residents.

“The community should benefit directly by owning a powerful share of any new runway,” said Mr Thomas, MP for Harrow West. “Business as usual won’t be good enough.”

 That’s not a bad idea. Turn the local residents into shareholders!


House of Commons votes no to Syria action

August 30th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports that the House of Commons has voted down by 285 to 272 a resolution authorising use of force in Syria. This is a huge embarrassment to David Cameron and his Government.  Cameron has said he will respect the decision. Around 30 Conservative MPs voted against.

I’m not totally surprised. I listen to the UK Today in Parliament on podcast almost every day, and in the past few months there have been many speeches from Conservative MPs expressing concern at the UK doing anything to help the rebels in Syria.

This will also be a big blow to Obama, who will have to act without their traditional ally. Of course he does have strong backing from most of the Arab League for action.

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The public are wrong

July 13th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Independent reports:

A new survey for the Royal Statistical Society and King’s College London shows public opinion is repeatedly off the mark on issues including crime, benefit fraud and immigration. …

- Benefit fraud: the public think that £24 of every £100 of benefits is fraudulently claimed. Official estimates are that just 70 pence in every £100 is fraudulent – so the public conception is out by a factor of 34.

- Immigration: some 31 per cent of the population is thought to consist of recent immigrants, when the figure is actually 13 per cent. Even including illegal immigrants, the figure is only about 15 per cent. On the issue of ethnicity, black and Asian people are thought to make up 30 per cent of the population, when the figure is closer to 11 per cent.

-  Crime: some 58 per cent of people do not believe crime is falling, when the Crime Survey for England and Wales shows that incidents of crime were 19 per cent lower in 2012 than in 2006/07 and 53 per cent lower than in 1995. Some 51 per cent think violent crime is rising, when it has fallen from almost 2.5 million incidents in 2006/07 to under 2 million in 2012.

- Teen pregnancy is thought to be 25 times higher than the official estimates: 15 per cent of of girls under 16 are thought to become pregnant every year, when official figures say the amount is closer to 0.6 per cent.

Among the other surprising figures are that 26 per cent of people think foreign aid is in the top three items the Government spends money on (it actually makes up just 1.1 per cent of expenditure)

One of the challenges of politics is that perception often trumps reality.


UK civil service reforms

July 12th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The BBC reports:

Some civil servants are “lazy” and need to be moved from their jobs, Britain’s top civil servant has said.

Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood was defending a scheme in which the bottom 10% of staff are targeted for improvement or moved out.

He also backed allowing ministers to “hand-pick” staff in their private office and limit permanent secretaries to five-year terms.

The last two things are already the case in NZ.

Sir Jeremy said suggestions top civil servants were opposed to a major revamp of the way the civil service operates, launched last year, were “wide of the mark”.

Under the scheme, the top 25% performers in each government department are rewarded – some with cash bonuses – and the bottom 10% identified for action to improve their performance or be moved out. 

No figures were available for the numbers who left their posts, but Sir Jeremy said there had been a willingness to implement the scheme, as “nothing annoys good civil servants more than seeing lazy civil servants going year after year without addressing that performance problem”.

Bonuses for the top performers, and assistance or moving on for the worst – sounds good to me.

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About time

July 8th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Radical Muslim preacher Abu Qatada was deported yesterday from Britain to Jordan to face terror charges, ending a more than decade-long battle to remove a man described as a key al-Qaeda operative in Europe.

The move comes after Britain and Jordan ratified a treaty on torture aimed at easing human rights concerns that had blocked previous attempts to deport the Palestinian-born Jordanian preacher.

British Home Secretary Theresa May announced Abu Qatada’s departure.

“This dangerous man has now been removed from our shores to face the courts in his own country,” May said. The Home Office posted a picture on Twitter of Abu Qatada, wearing a long robe and climbing the steps of a plane – proof that the lengthy extradition saga was over. He landed at Marka Airport in east Amman last night.

Abu Qatada was wanted in Jordan for retrial in several terror cases in which he was sentenced in absentia. Britain had tried since 2001 to deport Abu Qatada – whose real name is Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman – but courts have blocked extradition over concerns that evidence obtained under torture could be used against him.

Amazing that it has taken 12 years to remove him. Well overdue.


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UK spending cuts

July 1st, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar



This graphic from the BBC shows the spending cuts for the next financial year in the UK. This is what happens when you let the debt get out of control. Eventually, there is a reckoning.

Mind you, not sure why the only area getting more funding is international aid!


Your welfare contribution

June 14th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Telegraph has a nifty tool where you put in your income and it tells you how much tax you pay over a 43 year career, and where it goes.

If you earn 50,000 pounds you pay over 43 years:

  • 219,000 pounds for welfare
  • 110,000 pounds for health
  • 83,000 pounds for education
  • 43,000 pounds for interest
  • 36,000 pounds for defence

Would be good to see some lifetime figures for NZ.


RIP Margaret Thatcher

April 9th, 2013 at 6:37 am by David Farrar

Margaret Thatcher has died, aged 87.

I was fortunate enough to meet Margaret Thatcher around a decade ago. It was an incredible privilege to meet the woman who I regard as the best post-war Prime Minister we have seen.

But what I remember most about that function, was all the young Eastern European politicians who got to meet her. Words can’t describe their emotions as they met one of the people they regarded as having been crucial in helping secure them their freedom.  She was to them, what George Washington was to early Americans.

Of course her respect and popularity was far from universal. She would be disappointed if she ever traded popularity for doing the right thing. There are many who battled against her policies. But people go into politics to make a difference, and Thatcher was proof that one person with conviction and strength can make a huge difference.

People forget how crippled the United Kingdom was economically when she took over. She put the Great back into Great Britain. Her greatest legacy is that after 18 years of Conservative Governments, the new Labour Government basically retained most of her policies – and in some cases Tony Blair pushed her reform agenda further. She forced UK Labour to abandon socialism and embrace the free market. ironically she helped make Labour electable.

She wouldn’t surrender to the Soviet Empire, the IRA, Argentina or the Mining unions. If she thought her cause was just, she stood by it.

Her legacy is not just what she did as Prime Minister, but getting there. She was the daughter of a shop keeper from Grantham. To rise to the leadership of her party and country was an extraordinary achievement for the 1970s.

The Daily Telegraph has a collection of quotes and reactions. A few to highlight:

Paddy Ashdown

If politics is defined as having views, holding to them and driving them through to success, she was undoubtedly the greatest PM of our age.

Lech Walesa

She was a great person. She did a great deal for the world, along with Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II and Solidarity, she contributed to the demise of communism in Poland and Central Europe.

Vaclav Klaus

Thatcher was one of the greatest politicians of our time, in the Czech Republic she was our hero.

Tony Blair

Margaret Thatcher was a towering political figure. Very few leaders get to change not only the political landscape of their country but of the world. Margaret was such a leader. Her global impact was vast. And some of the changes she made in Britain were, in certain respects at least, retained by the 1997 Labour Government, and came to be implemented by governments around the world.

As a person she was kind and generous spirited and was always immensely supportive to me as Prime Minister although we came from opposite sides of politics.

Even if you disagreed with her as I did on certain issues and occasionally strongly, you could not disrespect her character or her contribution to Britain’s national life. She will be sadly missed.

Ed Milliband

She will be remembered as a unique figure. She reshaped the politics of a whole generation. She was Britain’s first woman Prime Minister. She moved the centre ground of British politics and was a huge figure on the world stage.

The Labour Party disagreed with much of what she did and she will always remain a controversial figure. But we can disagree and also greatly respect her political achievements and her personal strength.

She also defined the politics of the 1980s. David Cameron, Nick Clegg and I all grew up in a politics shaped by Lady Thatcher. We took different paths but with her as the crucial figure of that era.

She coped with her final, difficult years with dignity and courage. Critics and supporters will remember her in her prime.

David Cameron

She didn’t just lead our country, she saved our country.

I think she will come to be seen as the greatest Prime Minister our country has ever seen.

Her legacy will be the fact she served her country so well.. She showed immense courage.

People will be learning about her for decades and centuries to come.

Boris Johnson

Very sad to hear of death of Baroness Thatcher. Her memory will live long after the world has forgotten the grey suits of today’s politics.

Her final years were very tough. May she indeed now rest in peace, secure in the knowledge she will never be forgotten for what she achieved.

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No UK minimum alcohol price

March 17th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

Sources have confirmed that the Coalition will not attempt to implement the Prime Minister’s plan for a 45p per unit minimum price.

Is that all? Labour MPs here were talking $2 a stand drink minimum price!

Mr Cameron had argued that making drinks more expensive would curb problem drinking, while several ministers argued that the minimum price would only serve to penalise responsible drinkers. The minimum price was also opposed by the Treasury, where officials argued that it would reduce tax revenues at a time when the public finances remain strained.

One Treasury source described the Prime Minister’s plan as “a remarkably stupid idea”.

Government insiders suggested the Chancellor is considering using the Budget to impose higher taxes on some drinks and argue that doing so will address problem drinking.

There is an interesting debate about the merits of minimum pricing vs excise taxes. Our current excise tax regime is lopsided and not all alcohol is taxed at the same rate.

A spokesman for the Wine and Spirit Trade Association said: “Minimum unit pricing would penalise responsible drinkers and treat everyone who is looking for value in their shopping as a binge drinker.”

Yet it is Labour and Green party policy. Beware.

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From beheadings to Eton

February 26th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Daily Mail reports:

When three-year-old Rohid Zamani and his family fled Afghanistan to escape the terrors of the Taliban regime, they could only hope to reach a better place.

But never in their wildest dreams could they have imagined such a spectacular outcome for their little boy.

While the family have built a new life in Britain, Rohid, now 16, has defied overwhelming odds to win a full scholarship to Eton.

His extraordinary story began in the city of Jalalabad, where the Zamanis lived in fear of the extremist Islamic rulers and civil unrest raging around them.

Among the horrors they witnessed was a man who was decapitated because he put gel in his hair to style it.

‘He was dragged out in the street and they chopped his head off,’ said Rohid.

Afghanistan is far from perfect today, but those who claim it is no better than under Taliban rule have never lived there!

Rohid’s father, who worked as a civil engineer, decided to risk everything by fleeing the country with his wife and two children.

Their journey took them across 3,500 miles, including crossing rivers in Russia in a leaking rubber dinghy.

Rohid said: ‘My mum was scared we were going to sink. She put her hand on the hole.

‘I was really scared. After that we had to wait for a van and the van broke down so we had to go through a forest.

‘There were wolves and dogs, everybody was just so scared.’

The family also became separated at one point.

They spoke no English when they arrived in Hull but they soon adapted and were allowed to settle in the UK. And Rohid showed his dedication to learning early on.

An incredible journey.

As well as being bright and hard-working, he excelled at rugby league and athletics. When the school suggested Rohid apply for an Eton scholarship he jumped at the chance and was among hundreds who took part in a tough four-day interview process.

‘Luckily I was picked so I must have done OK,’ he said. 

He starts at sixth form in September, studying A-levels in maths, biology, chemistry and physics.
Rohid’s father now works as a van driver – but the family won’t have to pay a penny of the £30,000 annual fees and have been given a £1,500 bursary to help cover school uniform and other expenses.

The teenager now knows there is no limit to what he can achieve. He hopes to become a surgeon. Commenting on the Eton life that awaits him, he said: ‘It’s a huge step, a bit like going to university two years early.

When people talk about equality of opportunity – this is what it means. A very heart-warming story.

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Would the Tories mind losing?

February 11th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Reuters reports at Stuff:

Cameron’s political future and historic legacy are on the line. He has pledged to contest the next British general election in 2015 and his own Conservative party would never forgive him if he presided over the break-up of a United Kingdom comprising England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

On the contrary many Conservatives would love Scotland to leave the UK.

In 2010 The Conservatives got 1 seat out of 59 in Scotland. With Scotland they were 306 out of 650 – a minority. Without it they would be 305 out of 591 – a majority.

In October 1974 the Conservatives got 16 out of 71 in Scotland and Labour got 41. With Scotland Labour won on 319 out of 635. Without Scotland Labour would not have had a majority and the Conservatives may have been able to govern.

In February 1974 the Conservatives got 297 seats, Labour 301 out of 635. Without Scotland it would have been Conservatives 276, Labour 261 out of 564. The Conservatives would have been given first chance to govern.

In 1964 the Conservatives got 304 seats, Labour 317 out of 630. Without Scotland it would have been Conservatives 281, Labour 273 out of 559 and a Conservative Government.

Opinion polls suggest support for independence has stalled. The latest put it at 32 per cent and opposition at 47 per cent. But Cameron and politicians from other parties remain nervous.

If the economy was stronger, independence would have a better chance. But people want security when times are tough. Hence a change is unlikely.

Some Scottish friends have suggested to me the eventual shape of the UK will be as a Federation of four countries.

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Cameron calls for UK referendum on EU membership

January 24th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

In a landmark speech, the Prime Minister said it is “time for the British people to have their say” amid growing public discontent with the power of Brussels.

Mr Cameron pledged an in-out referendum in the first half of the next parliament as democratic consent for membership is currently “wafter thin”.

“It is time to settle this European question in British politics,” he said. “I say to the British people: this will be your decision.”

Long overdue. It is cunning to time it for 2017, as it puts the acid on Labour and the Lib Dems. If they don’t commit to a referendum, they’ll suffer at the ballot box. People want to have a say – even if it is a vote to stay. Ed Miliband has said he won’t support a poll. I think he may come to regret that decision.

His decision to hold a poll was greeted with relief and praise from a wide range of Conservative MPs, but the reception across the Channel has already proved hostile.

A French minister branded the promise of a referendum “dangerous” and a former senior German politician described the possibility of Britain’s exit as a “veritable disaster”.

It would be, for the EU. That is why the EU has to reform. It is an undemocratic institution with almost all power with appointed Commissioners. It needs to focus more on free trade and economic prosperity, rather than regulating so many aspects of European life. If it does not agree to changes, then I think the UK will vote to leave.

The Prime Minister promised that he will personally fight for Britain to stay in the EU, after re-negotiating a better deal and clawing back some powers from Brussels.

He also went further than calling simply for the UK to have a new relationship with the EU. Setting out a wider vision for reform, he made a pitch to other leaders for a more “flexible, adaptable and open” relationship between all members, not just Britain.

“Far from unravelling the EU, this will in fact bind its members more closely because such flexible, willing cooperation is a much stronger glue than compulsion from the centre,” he said.


The full speech is here.

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A win for free speech in the UK

January 16th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

Home secretary Theresa May said the Government will accept a House of Lords amendment to remove the word ‘insulting’ from Section 5 of the Public Order Act.

Excellent. It should not be a crime to be insulting.

The amendment had been promoted in the House of Lords by Lord Dear, a former HM Inspector of Constabulary.

Six years ago police tried to prosecute Oxford student Sam Brown after he said to a mounted officer: “Excuse me, do you realise your horse is gay?”

Mr Brown, who made the comment during a night out with friends in Oxford after his final exams, was arrested under section 5 of the Public Order Act for making homophobic remarks.

The horse should have been forced to testify on whether he felt victimised.

The following year Kyle Little, a 16-year-old from Newcastle, was fined £50 with £150 costs for saying “woof” to a Labrador dog in front of police officers.

If a bad law is there, the Police will often use it. We should get rid of blasphemous libel, for example, as a crime. That at least needs the AG’s permission for a prosecution.

The amendment had been pushed for by comedian Rowan Atkinson who had warned that criticism, unfavourable comparison or “merely stating an alternative point of view” could be interpreted as an insult and lead to arrest.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph last month, Lord Dear, said that the law had “no place in our country” because the law was being “used to undermine free speech because of the way it is framed”.

Last month House of Lords vote saw peers vote overwhelmingly by 150 to 54 in favour of the change. Campaigners welcomed the change. Simon Calvert, Reform Section 5 campaign director, said he was “very pleased” by the Government’s statement.

He said: “This is a victory for free speech. People of all shades of opinion have suffered at the hands of Section 5.

A victory for comedians and free speech.

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