Showing posts from September, 2013

A thank you to Manchester

One very good idea at this conference has been the issue of a delegate travelcard to people attending which gives free travel on local public transport in Manchester - buses, trams, and trains - for the duration of the conference. Presume the justification for this is that it means delegates are not adding to the congestion in the city, already exacerbated by the road closures around the conference centre made necessary by security measures. But it's certainly most useful for getting from one's hotel to the conference and back.

George Osborne writes: "A serious plan for a grown-up country"

At every conference since the election, the question for us and for me has been: ‘is your economic plan working?’   They aren’t asking that question now. The deficit is down by a third, exports to China have doubled, and businesses have created 1.4 million new jobs. Our plan is working. Thanks to the resolve and sacrifice of the people of this country, Britain is now turning a corner.   So now families, working hard and anxious about the future, are asking these questions: can we make the recovery last, and will they feel it in their pockets?   It is to them that I offer our economic plan for hardworking people . We will deliver sound public finances. We say: never again. Instead of borrowing and spending in the good times, we will fix the roof when the sun is shining. That is why we have said that when we have dealt with Labour’s deficit, we will run a surplus in good times as insurance against the bad. And so that we invest for the future, we will grow capital spendin

Manchester conference diary - day two

Dashing between various fringe and social events yesterday evening and this lunchtime, and will be doing the same this evening. Interesting session this morning on the environment, followed by George Osborne on the economy, and I will let him speak for himself in the next post. Then on to a session on dealing with UKIP. One thing which came out of it was that parties which are successful at building their support often do so through energy and passion, and we need to do the same. Another key point was that while many Conservative and UKIP supporters believe a lot of similar things, it's often only the Conservatives who can deliver them. There will not be a UKIP government after the next election. And only the Conservatives can deliver an In/Out referendum on Britain's future inside or outside the European Union.

Quote of the day 30th September 2013

"The desire to win is born in most of us. The will to win is a matter of training. The manner of winning is a matter of honour." (Denis Thatcher)

Manchester Conference Diary - day one

I had already written my "Quotes of the Day" for the conference week and loaded them onto the system timed to publish each morning before setting off for Manchester in case I had trouble getting onto one of the computers around "Manchester Central." Now thinking I might have done betters to wait and use some of the quotes I've been hearing around the conference. David Cameron was on form this morning at the meeting of the National Conservative Convention (a private meeting of Conservative Constituency, Area, and Regional chairmen). I particularly liked his two line demolition of most of the ideas put forward at Labour conference last week. "The problems were caused by too much borrowing, too much spending, and too much debt. The answer last week was more borrowing, more spending, and more debt." He also made a very powerful point in response to a (Scottish Unionist) questioner who asked what we can do to avoid the breakup of the UK in the

Quote of the day 29th September 2013

"In politics, what begins in fear, usually ends in folly." (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

The next election is still wide open

The result of the 2015 General Election could be anything from another hung parliament to an overall majority for either the Conservatives or Labour. Despite the fact that the events of the last few weeks will have moved many people involved in or commenting on politics from a fear that Ed Miliband might be a rather poor Prime Minister to an absolute conviction that he would be a disaster - and the disillusionment with Miliband includes some on the left such as David Aaronovitch, (see previous post here ) and Dan Hodges (who explained here why Miliband's behaviour drove him to resign from the Labour party) - and despite the fact that he has deliberately ignored one of the most important rules you usually have to follow to win elections in Britain, by moving away from the centre, a lot of the shrewdest analysts of British politics think he has increased his chances of becoming PM. However, Miliband has also increased David Cameron's chances of getting a majority, especi

Quote of the Day 28th September 2013

"I've never understood why it should be necessary to become irrational to show that you care: or even to show it at all." (Line spoken by the character "Avon" on "Blakes Seven," created by Terry Nation)

"Four is not a number"

That was the error message I was given today by a computer system which I was trying to use to book a meeting room. It wanted a detail of the booking in numerical rather than text format and was not sophisticated enough to recognise the word "four" as a number. This wasn't a problem for me - I just deleted the word and put in the numeral "4" instead, although an older or less computer-literate user might have been stumped or annoyed. Don't think computers will be taking over the world just yet. Has anyone reading this had any daft messages from computers recently that they want to share?

Quote of the Day 27th September 2013

"Those who can win a war well can rarely make a good peace and those who could make a good peace would never have won the war." (Sir Winston Churchill)

Thoughts on the German election result

The result of the German election has rightly been described as a personal triumph for Chancellor Angela Merkel but the impact of the arbitrary 5% threshold for representation in parliament under the particular system of  proportional representation used in Germany has caused what looks to British eyes like a very perverse result, and one which may even to some extent make her position weaker rather than stronger. Frau Merkel's party, the equivalent of the Conservatives, won by far the largest share of the vote, and under the first past the post system she would almost certainly have won a healthy majority. The daft thing about the result, however, which I am surprised more people have not noticed, is that parties which are not left-wing won an outright majority of votes cast but the electoral system gave parties of the left a slim margin in the Bundestag. If you add together the votes for the Christian Democrats and CSU (think Conservatives), the Free Democrats (think Orange

Quote of the Day 26th September 2013

"We economists don't know much, but we do know how to create a shortage. If you want to create a shortage of tomatoes, for example, just pass a law that retailers can't sell tomatoes for more than two cents per pound. Instantly you'll have a tomato shortage. It's the same with oil or gas." Milton Friedman.

Grant Shapps writes: so now it's official, Labour hasn't changed

Ed Miliband has finally admitted what we knew all along: that nothing has changed. This is the same old Labour. In his hour-long speech yesterday, he set out NO plans to cut the deficit, NO plans to secure the recovery and NO plans to fix the welfare system. Instead, he called for a damaging tax rise on businesses that would cost jobs and confirmed that Labour would spend more and borrow more. If you want to stop Ed Miliband, please donate £10 to our campaign today. His unworkable energy policy is also unravelling. He’s been forced to admit that energy companies could appeal to the Government to overturn the freeze - and had no answer when asked what would happen if prices were put up before a freeze. The way to help hardworking people is to force energy companies to put customers on their cheapest tariffs – which is what we’re doing. The way to raise living standards is to grow the economy and keep spending and borrowing under control – which is what we’re doing. Labour

What happened last time someone tried Miliband's new energy policy.

Jan. 24, 2001: Energy Crisis in Calif. | Video - ABC News I'm told that focus groups are reporting that approval of Ed miliband's new policy is "off the scale." I'm sure it will stay that way with some people until the moment of the first power cut. The bizare thing is, Ed Miliband cannot possibly be unaware that Britain has for years been in serious danger of power cuts. He was secretary of state for energy in the latter years of the last decade when projections were published suggesting that power cuts in this one were not just possible but likely. Here's what I wrote on this blog at the time, four years ago: When the lights go out . Grateful to Tim Walker @ThatTimWalker who posted a link to this page on the ABC news archive with an eight minute 2001 report on what happened when California capped retail energy prices while making the false assumption that wholesale energy prices would go down, which they didn't. Instead, and partly becaus

Quote of the Day 25th September 2013

"You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot help small men by tearing down big men. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot lift the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer. You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred. You cannot establish security on borrowed money. You cannot build character and courage by taking away men's initiative and independence. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves." William Boetcker (1873-1962) German-born Presbyterian clergyman, "The ten cannots" (1916) Often attributed to Abraham Lincoln    

Whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad ...

We thought Godfrey Bloom had given a pretty good imitation of a Kamikazi pilot when he wrecked UKIP's conference. However, the damage he did to UKIP's electoral chances are nothing to what Ed Miliband has done to Labour's - which in turn is nothing to the damage he would do to Britain if the voters are insane enough to elect him and if he implements the 70's Labour politics he outlined today. When I picked my quote for today, Milton Friedman's saying that "Governments never learn: only people learn." I had no idea how apposite it would be. But the present leader of the labour party certainly hasn't learned: like many socialists he has this in common with the Bourbons: he has forgotten nothing and learned nothing. I was a teenager when the kind of policies now advocated by Ed Miliband were last tried. They ended with the dead unburied and rubbish left uncollected in the streets. With Britain having to go to the International Monetary Fund to be

Quote of the day 24th September 2013

"Governments never learn. Only people learn." (Milton Friedman)

Don't forget the small stuff

People involved in politics often get asked - especially by selection committees - questions along the lines of "what political achievement are you most proud of?" There is a tendancy to cite something big - a major project you approved or managed to stop, a large reform you put in place - because it sounds so much more impressive. But I wonder if actually the value of any contribution we can make is as much in doing as many small things as possible which can actually make a difference to improve people's lives. The other day I was driving past a small but highly visible plot of land in Whitehaven - won't say where as I don't want to embarrass the people concerned. Five or six years ago this little plot, which is owned by the council, was an absolute eyesore, partly because rubble from nearby developments had been left on it, partly because people passing by had dropped litter, partly because it was over-run with weeds. A family who lived adjacent asked

Quote of the day 23rd Sept 2013

"No man is good enough to govern another man without the other's consent" (Abraham Lincoln)

Grant Shapps writes: Share the Facts

As the Labour Party gather for their annual Conference, their message to the country couldn't be simpler: more spending, more borrowing and more debt. And, as we've learnt today, they've already committed themselves to nearly £28 billion of debt-funded spending - more than £1,000 of additional borrowing for every household. Over the next few days, you'll hear a lot of speeches attacking the vital action we're taking to turn Britain around. Help defend our measures to support hardworking people by going to our new Share The Facts website today. This is the same old Labour, opposing everything we are doing to mend the economy, cut the deficit, and fix the welfare system - while making nearly £28 billion of unfunded spending commitments. Don't let Labour derail the important action we're taking. Help us fight back by rebutting Labour's claims, sharing what we're doing for hardworking people, and telling everyone about the damage a Labour

Iron Discipline? No, it's the same old Labour

As Labour's conference begins the Conservatives have pointed out that their promises of fiscal discipline completely fail to reflect reality. As they point out on the Share The Facts website at , "On 3 rd June this year, Ed Balls said that the Labour Party would need to show ‘an iron discipline’ on public spending. Ed Miliband followed up in a speech three days later: ‘The next Labour government will have less money to spend…we will have to be laser focused on how we spend every single pound’. "Tough words, but not followed up with tough action. Since 3 rd June, Labour’s frontbench have made policy commitments that would cost the country £27.9 billion in 2015/16 ( read the dossier that proves the figures here ). "This is the equivalent of £1,059 additional borrowing for every household. "Nothing has changed – it is the same old Labour Party, offering only more spending, more borrowing and more debt. "

More joy in heaven over one sinner that repents ...

Another fascinating article on Conservative Home this weekend, this time from former Swedish MP and trade minister Maria Borelius, in which she does something very rare for a current or former politician and admits she was totally wrong about something important - in this case whether her country should join the Euro. It is called   Why I was wrong on the Euro, am no longer a Europhile, and why Europe needs reform and you can read the whole thing here . An extract from the start of the article reads as follows. Ten years ago, Sweden held a referendum on joining the euro. I voted Yes – and I was not alone. A whole host of business leaders, including the Swedish CBI, the main political parties - both on left and right - and the major national newspapers, all were in favour of joining. The Swedish CBI put a record £45 million into the campaign to ditch the Swedish Krona, as the yes-side funding outspent the no-side by a factor of 10-1. I still remember the shock when we realised

Quote of the Day 22nd Sept 2013

"If politicians lived on praise and thanks they'd be forced into some other line of business." (Ted Heath)

Vote on it again until you get it right ...

While I was treasurer of the University of Bristol Union I once asked for a recount on a very close vote by show of hands. The recount gave a different outcome, and one of the people who had voted for the original result accused me of operating the policy of "vote on it again until you get it right." I don't think that is a fair characterisation of asking for a recount when there are only a handful of votes in it, but people do sometimes act like that, and the EU is a particular culprit. However, I've had to confront twice in the past few days - once in the case of a comment on this blog, and once at a meeting which discussed the issue of Nuclear waste - that there are some issues which you can't just drop when the first proposal to be voted on falls. Suppose there is a proposal to change the electoral system to AV or STV, to declare independence from some wider group, to sign a particular treaty, and it is voted down by a clear margin the electorate. In

Quote of the day 21st Sept 2014

"An independent is the guy who wants to take the politics out of politics" (Attributed to Sir Winston Churchill)

Conservative Home on "proper conservatives" vs. "The Economist"

I usually enjoy reading "The Economist" even though I often disagree with it. Particularly when it endorses left wing candidates in elections. There is a fascinating "Heresy of the week" piece on Conservative Home today which examines and critiques why the Economist magazine might be tempted to do so, which you can read here . I can't find a signature on the article but from discussions I had with him thirty years ago when we were both students I recognise the philosophy as very distinctively either that of Paul Goodman (now editor of Conservative Home) or someone who thinks very, very much like him. The article includes a fascinating attempt to define what a "proper conservative" is - as someone who believes that "humanity is fallible in every respect " and that " Only conservatism – true conservatism, that is – sees that the flaws in human nature compromise everything that we do and think. This is a hard truth to accept,

Quote of the day 20th September 2013)

"There is no art which one government sooner learns of another than that of draining money from the pockets of the people."   (Adam Smith, The Wealth Of Nations)

Latest YOUGOV poll has Conservatives and Labour neck and neck

It would be a huge mistake for Conservatives to start getting complacent about the next election - the latest Ashcroft marginal seats polling suggests that a combination of Tory vote share losses to UKIP, and Lib/Dem losses to Labour, in the most critical battleground constituencies means that Labour is currently in a better position in those key marginals than their national average vote share suggests. Nevertheless Labour can't be complacent either, and they will not be delighted to learn as they head for their party conference that the YOUGOV poll released today in the Sun newspaper is the second major poll in a month to put Labour and the Conservatives neck and neck. The figures are: Conservative    36% Labour              36% UKIP                 12% Lib/Dem            10% This  is within the margin of error of recent YOUGOV polls which had a small Labour lead (though of course errors can go in either direction.) However the 14% lead Labour enjoyed a year ago has c

Quote of the Day 19th September

“The power to tax is the power to destroy.”   ( John Marshall )

Seagulls in Whitehaven

"Don't Blame Innocent Gulls Chris Whiteside is wrong to blame the seagulls" (Whitehaven News, April 2007) "War on seagull menace Children being attacked Angry Whitehaven residents are suffering a two-pronged attack from problem seagulls ... " (Front page Whitehaven News headline this week) It seems that the Whitehaven News has slightly changed their position on seagulls in the town since they stirred up an amazing amount of fuss six years ago with an attack on me, admittedly one which came over as partly tongue in cheek, over a few words in this blog about problem seagulls. What I originally wrote here on 16th April 2007, reporting from feedback on the doorstep in Bransty during the 2007 council election campaign, was as follows: "There are a lot of these birds in Whitehaven at the moment. You always expect some on coasts and around a harbour but the population is such that some are coming further inland. They can be noisy and aggressiv

On the Scottish Independence referendum a year from today:

"The nationalists only need to win once, and even then, by only a single vote, to bring to an end the most successful democratic and political union the world has ever seen." (Alistair Darling on the Scottish Independence Referendum, as quoted in a Telegraph article by Tom Harris MP which you can read here .)

Humour in Politics

Charles Kennedy has lamented the limited amount of political humour on display at this years' Lib/Dem conference, saying that if reflects a defensive political mood in the country. He told the BBC that "The public needed a bit of humour in a time of austerity." This would be so easy to parody that I'm not going to bother, not least because he does actually have a point. I would never have survived being involved in politics for thirty-five years (and counting) without a sense of humour. The ability to laugh at the situation - and ourselves - is one of the things that keeps life bearable and helps us to carry on.

Quote of the Day 18th September 2013

"Every sect is a moral check on its neighbor. Competition is as wholesome in religion as in commerce." (WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR, Imaginary Conversations)

Making parliament more transparent.

The House of Commons Procedure Committee, chaired by Tory MP Charles Walker, has suggested several important changes to the way Parliament operates to try to make it more logical and accessible. One idea is that there might be some form of vote allowing bills which command wide support to be brought forward, with some priority for debate (any MP can put down a Bill on any subject - the trick is to get priority for debating time, which is currently allocated by "ballot," which is parliament-speak for a lottery). This would be a logical extension of the re-empowerment of the Commons which began in the backwash of the expenses scandal They also suggest that the government would be required to produce a statement giving its view of any Bill set down for second reading, and that it should be possible to ask the House to move the third reading of a private member's bill to prime time, both of which would make the process a bit more sensible. I would like to s

Quote of the Day 17th Sept 2013

“You don't pay back your parents. You can't. The debt you owe them gets collected by your children, who hand it down in turn. It's a sort of entailment. Or if you don't have children of the body, it's left as a debt to your common humanity. Or to your God, if you possess or are possessed by one. The family economy evades calculation in the gross planetary product. It's the only deal I know where, when you give more than you get, you aren't bankrupted - but rather, vastly enriched.”   ( Lois McMaster Bujold , lines from the comedy SF romance  A Civil Campaign  which is a sort of Regency Romance set in space in the far future.)

Three Party consensus for nuclear power

The Lib/Dem vote on nuclear power means that Britain now has a three party consensus that nuclear power can form part of the energy mix. This is a good thing. We urgently need new generating capacity, preferably of several different types to increase Britain's energy security, and including as much low-carbon generation as possible. Including nuclear power in the mix ticks all those boxes.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown on the veil controversy

I do not often agree with Yasmin Alibhai Brown, but I thought her article in the Independent, which you can read here , on the difficult question of full-face veils, was interesting and worth reading. It must have taken considerable courage and a lot of soul searching to write and publish this. It isn't an issue on which there are any simple or easy answers.

Quote of the day 16th Sept 2013

“When you have got an elephant by the hind legs and he is trying to run away, it's best to let him run.” (Abraham Lincoln)

Non-quote of the day

A list of actual (mostly) and alleged Abraham Lincoln quotes on the internet included the following “The difficult thing with quotes on the internet is verifying them.”   Hm. Don't need to ring up Nigel Rees to ask whether it was really Abraham Lincoln who said that one.

All to play for - but watch the marginals

Considering that  * there are nearly two years to go to the next General Election,  * the government has had to carry out a lot of very painful measures to try to correct the dreadful debt mountain and deficit inherited from Labour in 2010, and  * after five years of pain (starting well before the present government was elected) the economy is starting to turn round Labour's lead in the opinion polls looks narrow and extremely fragile. However, Lord Ashcroft's polling of marginal seats which you can find here suggests that the risk of a Miliband win in the next General Election - which would be an absolute disaster for Britain - is much greater than the headline Labour lead in the polls suggests. Although Labour's overall percentage point leads in recent polls have been in low single figures, Lord Ashcroft's polling shows that in the 32 Conserative/Labour marginals within the most vulnerable 40 Conservative-held constituencies, in which we had an average l

British Journalism (2)

Lord Ashcroft's tweet about the Mirror missing out the word "no" was actually the second piece of shoddy journalism this weekend which made me think of the Humbert Wolfe quote about the British Journalist. The first was an express headline claiming that the Prime Minister knew about allegations that the SAS had killed Princess Diana and failed to act on them. Except that when you read beyond the first two lines of the article it doesn't prove anything of the sort. Anyone with an interest in paranoid fantasies and mischief making can read the Daily Express article in full  here but a little light fisking of some of the claims in the article follows. Express: "DAVID CAMERON and the head of the Army knew the SAS were allegedly responsible for the murder of Princess Diana – but failed to tell police." The article which follows provides no substantive evidence for either of those things. Express:  "The Prime Minister and General Sir Peter Wall

British Journalism (1)

Humbert Wolfe once wrote "You cannot hope to bribe or twist (thank God!) the British journalist. But, seeing what the man will do unbribed, there's no occasion to." Two extreme examples this weekend. Referring to how the Mirror covered his most recent polling survey of the position in marginal seats (of which more anon), Lord Ashcroft posted the following tweet this morning: 'Labour have made no progress in the past two years" I said in my marginal poll. The Mirror omitted the key word of "no" in their report. — Lord Ashcroft (@LordAshcroft) September">">September 15, 2013 I can't think of a worse form of misrepresentation than to quote someone but miss out a negative such as "no" or "not."

Quote of the Day 15th September 2013

"Many laws as certainly make bad men, as bad men make many laws." (WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR, Imaginary Conversations)

Quote of the Day 14th September 2013

"Oh, it is excellent to have a giant's strength, but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant." ( WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Measure for Measure)

Barroso makes a fool of himself

Some of my colleagues were rather upset by the attack on British Conservaties in general, and Martin Callanan, Chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists group in particular, by EU Commission president Manuel Barroso. Personally I felt that Barroso's attacks on Martin and my colleagues were too silly to be worth getting upset about. And the chances of it losing the Conservatives any votes are somewhere between slim and none - most floating voters will not have picked up his remarks at all. And of those who do there will probably be as many who think getting attacked by the head of the commission indicates that your criticisms have hit a raw nerve as those who think this is something to be worried about. He accused "Eurosceptics" of wanting Europe "back in the trenches" and delighting in Europe's difficulties. No. Euro- phobes are the people who cheer when things go wrong in Europe and want to to back to the trenches. Euro- sceptics are t

Quote of the Day 13th September 2013

"Delay of justice is injustice." (WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR, Imaginary Conversations)

Anglicans in Wales vote for women bishops

In England as in Wales, the overwhelming majority of members of the Anglican church support the consecration of women as bishops, and by the same proportion as the general public - nearly three to one. Almost all the existing bishops support this, a majority of clergy support it, and a majority of lay representatives in the General Synod support it. I was horrified when by just four votes the "Stop the world, God wants us to get off" tendancy managed to get a blocking third in one of the three houses of the General Synod to stop the proposal, which needed a two-thirds majority in all three chambers. Thus creating the unfair but understandable impression for the general public that the Church of England is a bunch of dinosaurs left over from the last millenium and with nothing useful to say about this one. So I welcome the long overdue decision by the Church in Wales to consecrate women as bishops and I hope the Church of England will do the same in the near future. W

Lib/Dem minister says he didn't claim God is a Lib/Dem

I had to laugh at the BBC headline " God not a Lib/Dem says minister ." "You're telling me!" I thought. In fact the headline is slightly unfair, and the minister concerned, Lib/Dem Steve Webb, was trying to draw a distinction between what he had said, that God is liberal and what he hadn't, that God is a Liberal Democrat. If there really is a god, I suspect that He would not neatly fit into almost any human category, though I can think of at least one controversial issue on which He might actually be more liberal than Steve Webb, if not most of his party. Judging by how consistently Jesus refused to go along with those who tried to condemn people because of their sexuality - once stopping a lynch mob cold with the words "Let him who has no sin throw the first stone" - I suspect some of the critics of equal marriage may be very surprised by what He has to say to them when they meet.

DC writes: tell us about a great small business in your area

Prime Minister David Cameron writes: "While there is still a long way to go, our economy is turning a corner – and Britain’s small businesses can claim a big share in this revival. "Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy – providing nearly half of all private sector jobs. And since 2010 we’ve seen over 300,000 of them start up. " Why don’t you tell us about a great small business in your area? "This Government is getting behind Britain’s entrepreneurs in every way possible: from Start-Up Loans to help new businesses get off the ground – to our New Enterprise Allowance for those who are unemployed and want to set up on their own. "Today in Downing Street I met just a few of the people who have made use of that help: Tom from Warwickshire who’s recently set up a micro brewery with his younger brother; Jessica from Newcastle who’s gone into business selling children’s clothes; Richard from York who in his sixties has started up his own floris

Quote of the Day 12th September 2013

" It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live." (Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus)

George Osborne writes: Britain is turning the corner

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne writes ... "These are still the early stages of the economic recovery and many risks remain, but thanks to the efforts and sacrifices of the British people, Britain is turning a corner. "New figures out today show that unemployment has fallen again and the private sector has created more than 1.4 million new jobs over the past three years. "We must now continue to stick to our economic plan. The best way to improve living standards is to tackle our deep economic problems head on and build an economy where those who aspire to work hard and do the right thing are rewarded. "Amazingly, Labour still want more government spending, more borrowing and more debt. This would undermine the recovery and put up mortgage rates and bills, squeezing living standards for hardworking people. "We can’t let them get away with it. Share this graphic on Facebook and Twitter today and help show how the Conservatives are

Governments propose further cuts to 2014 EU budget

The EU Commission proposed a budget of €136.06bn for 2014, but the Council - which represents member states - has voted to cut this by €1.06bn. This has generated some flak from the commission. Presenting the Council's position on 10 September 2013, Lithuanian Finance Minister Algimantas Rimkunas said he supported a " realistic and balanced " budget. He insisted that there were no " general and unjustified cuts " proposed, saying that all planned reductions were on the basis of " detailed analysis of operational expenditure ". However the Council's position was criticised by the EU's Budgets Commissioner, Janusz Lewandowski, who accused EU governments of " going their traditional way of cutting ". I only wish that were their traditional way, but there is more joy in heaven over a sinner who repents ... MEPs are expected to reach their position on the budget by the end of October. If - as usually happens - there are

Quote of the Day 11th Sept 2013

"People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty or justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary." (Adam Smith, " The Wealth of Nations ")

EU's own lawyers say the proposed EU "Tobin Tax" is illegal

A 14-page legal opinion suggests that the proposed "Financial Transactions Tax" (FTT) to be introduced by eleven EU member states is unlawful in that it would exceed member states' tax powers and is also incompatible with the EU treaty. The FTT, also known as the Robin Hood tax and Tobin tax, is set to be adopted by Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Portugal, Greece, Slovenia, Slovakia and Estonia. A number of other states, including the UK, are strongly opposed to the plan. According to press reports the legal document drawn up by the EU Council legal services says the transaction tax plan "exceeds member states' jurisdiction for taxation under the norms of international customary law." and that the proposal "infringes upon the taxing competences of non-participating member states," making it incompatible with the EU treaty. Also, because only 11 EU members are signed up, this  would make the tax "dis

Quote of the Day 10th September 2013

"There is no such thing as a good tax." (Sir Winston Churchill)


I have long suspected that I am far from the only parent who is concerned about the amount of time their offspring spend playing the online game "Minecraft" or watching Youtube videos of other people playing the game. An article by BBC Technology correspondent Mark Ward on the BBC website here confirms this and explains " Why Minecraft is more than just another video game. " Apparently Minecraft has a huge following estimated at about 33 million users worldwide - that's the number of copies of the game the creators have sold - particularly among children aged between about nine and fifteen, mainly but not exclusively boys. Among the keenest officionados Mark Ward describes the game as "almost a religion." This is a remarkable level of growth for a game which is about two years old: Minecraft was Developed in Sweden by Markus Persson and his company Mojang - officially released in 2011 Minecraft has spawned a number of spin-off businesses: f