Croydon Council – a tale of mismanagement

As Croydon Council’s financial crisis grows Mike Swadling writes for the TaxPayers’ Alliance about Croydon Council, a tale of mismanagement.

“Northamptonshire in 2018 when they faced a £10 million shortfall and debts of around £1 billion. Croydon has just over half the population of Northamptonshire, and yet still managed to exceed this”

“Given all this overspend, Croydon’s contribution to the Town Hall Rich List seems utterly obscene. The latest report showed the council has 23 staff on over £100,000 a year and 3 who earn more than the Prime Minister”

“it’s clear the financial challenges predate the crisis. Too much money has been squandered on schemes that have not paid off. Anyone can see that too little value has been provided for the people of Croydon”

“The Growth Fund, together with the Community Ward budgets awarded by councillors, gave over £35,000 to Croydon Pride in 2018, and over £59,000 the following year. They are great events, but is it really taxpayers’ job to fund my weekend entertainment?”

Full article: https://www.taxpayersalliance.com/croydon_council_a_tale_of_mismanagement

Reclaiming Liberty

By Mike Swadling

Growing up in the 80s it was common to hear “I can say what I like,, it’s a free country”.  This has not felt true for some years.  We have seen growing control from the state over what you can say, the business you can engage in, the food you eat, and what you can stop your children being taught at school.  This gradual encroachment on liberty from governments, universities and Big Tech, has been little preparation for the tsunami against freedom we have seen in 2020.

Whatever you think of the initial 3 week lockdown, it was as an understandable response to a pandemic, and was imposed to simply protect vital health services.  5 months in, health services were not overwhelmed.  The introduction of further requirements for facemasks seems only to happen because politicians and advisors have too much power and too little willing to give it up.

When the Coronavirus Bill was passed giving sweeping powers to the government to lockdown society few other than Steve Baker MP showed any concern at what was happening saying in the House of Commons “For goodness’ sake, let us not allow this dystopia to endure one moment longer than is strictly necessary”.

Since then we have seen advisors, the mainstream media, celebrities, big business, Big Tech and politicians of all parties, complain the lockdown wasn’t imposed soon enough, wasn’t harsh enough, and that people mostly stuck indoors weren’t taking it seriously enough.  We’ve even had the police already given unprecedented powers, make up rules to tell people they can’t stand in their own front gardens.  There are notable exceptions in the media like Toby Young with his excellent Lockdown Sceptics site, but there is no mainstream objection or leading politician questioning the erosion of liberty.

“You don’t have to win general elections to exert influence.  If you can gain some support in the polls the major parties will take note”

What can we do about this?  How can we reclaim liberty?

The Green Party with foundations in 1975 (as the Ecology Party), hit a high point in 1989 with 15% of the vote in the European elections, has never had more than 3.6% of the vote in a General Election and never had more than 1 MP.  Yet all main parties are committed to net zero emissions and have we have a Department of Energy & Climate Change.

UKIP / Brexit Party whilst receiving 12.6% of the vote in 2015, and twice winning the European elections, managed only 2 MPs.  Yet we had a referendum and have left the European Union (and let’s hope we fully leave at the end of the year).  The SNP and Plaid Cymru were never major parties prior to the devolved assemblies in both nations.  The reason I point this out?  You don’t have to win general elections to exert influence.  If you can gain some support in the polls the major parties will take note, you will empower sympathisers in them, and make strategists look for opportunities to win back your support.

Imagine we had a group, even small group of major politicians who were vocal about liberty.  Politicians who could be invited onto mainstream media or write columns opposing new rules.  Politicians who make speeches on liberty in the House of Commons.  Mainstream figures who could be shared on social media.  This would start to make a difference.  It might not have stopped lockdown, but might bring about a quicker opening up, might stop further lockdown rules and bright ideas on advertising, or buy one get one free offers.

“a small group of MPs wanting to see off a threat from freedom focused candidates would likely be opposed to the governments next imposition on us”

Scared politicians are compliant

It would be great to be able to write that I believe a classical liberal party could start up tomorrow and with a little bit of advertising could capture 30/40% in the polls and be viable to form a government.  I’d even like to be able to write that I think they could get 15% and really shake the establishment to taking on their policies.  Nothing I have seen before or during lockdown makes me believe that.  But 1%, and up to 5% with the right issues in some areas.  Yes that’s possible.

Imagine we had a broadly libertarian party running at 1% in the polls and able to stand candidates in most of the country.  At 1% (about 500 votes per constituency), 12 MPs with majorities of less than 1% would know their seats we’re at risk.  At 3% a number quite achievable with some targeting of resources, 40 MPs would be at risk.  At 5% (again possible with targeting), 35 Conservative (almost half their majority) and 20 Labour (almost 10% of their MPs) would be at risk.

Whatever one of these numbers could happen, a small group of MPs wanting to see off a threat from freedom focused candidates would likely be opposed to the governments next imposition on us.  They would garner supporters in the mainstream and non-mainstream media, and be champions for the cause.  Long before anyone mainstream was talking about a referendum to leave the EU, we had a multitude of opt outs from the EU and never joined the Euro, in no small part due to a small number of eurosceptic MPs.  Imagine what a similar group could do for liberty.

Is this possible and if so, how quickly is this possible?’  At the 2019 General Election the Yorkshire Party proved to be the biggest of the small parties, running 28 candidates and receiving over 29,000 votes.  The Liberals (an actually liberal party unlike the LibDems) managed to run 19 candidates averaging over 570 votes per constituency.  Whilst economically more collectivist, strong on personal liberty, the Christian Peoples Alliance (CPA) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) managed 27 and 20 candidates respectively and the Libertarian Party managed 5 candidates averaging 356 votes a piece.  These relatively unknown parties, who all respect personal liberty managed a respectable 72 candidates (all of whom did and would have expected to lose their £500 deposits) and an average of 316 votes (about 0.6%) between them.

Based on the numbers above, and keeping in mind 2019 the Brexit Party took 2% of the vote, people who are likely to sympathise with this cause, it should be more than possible for a well organised party to run say ~200 candidates, get registered in polling, and make MPs take note.

What platform?

We have a Libertarian Party, a Scottish Libertarian Party, and a UK Liberty Party.  The Brexit Party is broadly libertarian, UKIP is by its constitution libertarian.  The Foundation Party, 5 Star party, and Time Party are all largely classically liberal.  Whilst more economically collectivist the Liberals, SDP and CPA all agree with many of the core values of freedom, run decent number of candidates and reach communities most libertarians don’t.

Too many parties chasing relatively few votes is a problem, and one very difficult to resolve.  People fighting for liberty are by their nature free spirited.  It may be over the next few years the parties shake out and we see one or two clear leaders, or as an alternative we might see parties work either formally, (realistically needed to register in polling) or informally, together.

Away from the parties what might be the platforms they agree on?  I believe they all agree on the following:

  • free speech
  • rule of law
  • democracy
  • devolution of power from the centre
  • value for money from what government does spend money on

Here you have the basis for domestic liberty, government spending (at all levels), constitutional reform,  and a preference for democracies in foreign policy.  Not a bad start.  The Stockport Declaration written by a group of former Brexit Party candidates is a good overview of much of this.  We saw in the 2019 election the benefit of a small manifesto for the Conservatives (62 pages), and even then almost no one can remember anything beyond ‘Get Brexit Done’.  A few simple ideas, well publicised, get votes.

“As a minimum, each time you stand you will raise awareness.  You may deliver or hand out some thousands of leaflets with a simple message supporting free speech, supporting free choice”

How to make progress?

As someone who has run for office 3 times without making much impact on the outcome I feel a little presumptuous writing this but please bear with me.

If the goal is to get support, copy the parties you are aiming to get support from.  What does your local Conservative, Labour and even Green Party do?  Do the same or similar.  Major parties build up support from local councils (from Parish to County and every type in between).  Down to just 11 MPs, you might wonder how the LibDems keep going, but when you know they have 2527 Councillors, and run 19 District councillors it’s less of a surprise.  District councils have limited but real power, and influence how we live.

To get elected you firstly need to run for election.  Council seats are free to run for and only need 10 signatures (2 for Parish) to stand.  In many parts of the country elections are held annually, and may include Parish, District and County elections for the same area.  There is an annual opportunity to run for election, sometimes multiple elections, all free.  All requiring just 10 signatures from local residents to run.  5000 leaflets (colour, double sided, A5, decent weight of paper) are £100 (not cheap but not generally unaffordable) from my local printers, it can be less online.  5000 leaflets would cover most council wards, and depending on the area you live in, give you about 40 hours of delivery exercise!

Granted not so possible at the current time, but once back to normal street stalls in a busy high street can be an effective way to get your name out there and speak to people.  Leafleting on public land, outside a primary school when parents collect their children or in the morning at a train station are great ways to get seen by many people and get a leaflet straight in their hand.

As Jordan Peterson says first ‘clean your room’, get to know your local community, if you can, volunteer locally.This improves name recognition for you, builds knowledge, builds your CV (political and professionally), is living by the rules you are proposing, and can be personally rewarding.  As a school governor for many years, it is mostly an apolitical role, but I have found on occasion I have been the sole voice for parental choice, or stopping a ‘bright idea’ that isn’t as apolitical as the proposer thinks it is.

When you have an event, issue a press release, local reporters emails are normally on their website.  The press probably won’t publish it (they might) but you can publish it and people are more likely to read an article titled ‘Press Release’ than one titled ‘street stall’.

Use social media as an add-on not substitute for physical activity.  A street stall where you hand out a 100 leaflets, speak to 10 people in some detail, get seen by a thousand, and followed-up with a Facebook post on the local residents Facebook group, or maybe advertised to the local area (normally about 1p per person reached, £2=200 people), backed with a few tweets to #nameoftown, is a really effective add on to your day, and reaches out to new support.  The Facebook post or tweet alone will simply speak to the echo chamber.  Public Facebook groups work best when they speak to the public, about real issues relevant to them, rather than ways to share in jokes, or the talk about the least mainstream ideas to the committed few.

If you do all this will you get elected?  Probably not, no.  Unless you live in an area with a Parish council where it’s quite possible you can stand unopposed.  You probably won’t win the first or even the second time you stand.  As a minimum, each time you stand you will raise awareness.  You may deliver or hand out some thousands of leaflets with a simple message supporting free speech, supporting free choice.  You might organise events, get more local Facebook or Twitter followers, get one of many press releases published, the key thing is, you will be building support for the cause of freedom.

And what if you are elected, even as a loan voice on a Parish council?  You get the opportunity to implement polices at a local level.  You get to build support for ideas.  You can write to you constituents, the press, or more widely as a Councillor.  An elected Councillor speaking for liberty, that would be a big improvement on what we have today.

Building consensus

Elections generally happen once a year.  Many of these parties are very small and the next member may live a few towns away!  It can be a hard slog when a few of you are out campaigning let alone doing it by yourself, but why not work together?

Often the main enemy of most small parties is a lack of name recognition, the main enemy of personal freedom, is I think, lethargy.  Why not work with other local parties to organise a debate or a local protest, an event, to jointly support a petition etc.  Anything that gets your name/s and the cause out there.

Find something your local council is doing to restrict freedom and work with others to make that an issue to campaign on.  Even simply organise joint drinks with another group as a bit of moral support and to share ideas.  When parties are running at 5% they can campaign against each other when they are running at 0.005% they gain more working together.

Right now we do have restricted freedom (a potential campaign issue) but unless under local lockdown you can leaflet.  If you have a local issue you can issue a press release or write a letter (and mention your party) to the local paper, and if they don’t publish it – you can.  You can write an article for a site like this or better still this site!  And most of all, if there are elections in your area, you can stand for election next May!

Image by TJSMIT10 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Lording a better democracy – House of Lords reform.

Following articles by Crispin Williams and Jeremy Wraith, Mike Swadling has written his views on how we should reform the House of Lords.  Let us know what you think of these proposals.  Write to us at Croydon Constitutionalists to share your views.

We shouldn’t give up on Lords reform.  The current home for failed politicians is simply not good enough.  I believe the proposals below would control costs, whilst providing a separate chamber closer to the people and widen representation in our democracy.

Alternatives

Possibly the very best solution to resolve the challenge of how to complete House of Lords reform is simply to reverse the clock.  For all its faults and failings the undemocratic house, full of hereditary peers, frankly worked quite well.  Under it we extended the franchise for men and gave women the vote.  Passed multiple Factory Acts improving working conditions, legalised trade unions, had agricultural and industrial revolutions, and built and started giving up, an empire.  We won two world wars against Germany, and arguably two more against France.  It wasn’t democratic but it was a system that, albeit sometimes rather slowly, worked.

Of course we aren’t going to return to a hereditary second chamber, but what should we do?

Article 3 of the United States Constitution starts “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.”

The Legislature chose the Senators to make them accountable to the state government rather than a party or other grouping.  Whilst in the US this has been amended with people voting directly for their Senators, as a model I like the idea for an overly London centric UK giving true regional representation in its legislature.

Alas the UK does not have the regional bodies in place to provide those senators.  The mixture of assemblies and parliaments we do have (Welsh, Scottish, Greater London, etc) are not exactly universally popular or respected.

Perhaps for all their faults we could use these bodies as an example of what we can do to build out a new house.  The Green Party and UKIP / Brexit Party whilst being diametrically opposed groups, have consistently performed well for the past decade but neither have managed more than 2 MPs.  Nationalist parties do better, but with the exception of the SNP in recent years tend to be under represented, and running or functioning as an independent candidate or member is a mostly hopeless task.  This is not so true in the regional bodies of the UK.  For instance Wales has;

  • 10 Plaid Cymru,
  • 2 Independent,
  • 4 Brexit Party,
  • 1 UKIP,
  • 1 Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party,
  • 1 Welsh National Party,

assembly members as well as the usual members from the Conservatives, Labour and the LibDems.  The Scottish parliament manages 6 Greens and 2 Independents on top of the SNP, Conservatives, Labour and LibDem members.  In Northern Ireland in addition to the main Unionist and Republican parties there are 7 Alliance, 2 Green, 1 TUV, 1 PBP, and 3 Independent members.  Finally in London the assembly includes 2 Green and 2 Brexit Alliance members.  In all these cases, the local bodies have managed more representative models of governance.  Why couldn’t we do the same for the House of Lords?

Our most recent general elections have been fought in large part on the basis that you have to vote for the Red or Blue team to block the other side, rather than because you agree with them.  After 10 years of coalition, small majority or even minority government I see no desire for a form of proportional representation for the Commons, and indeed in 2011 we rejected changes to the current system.

Proposal

I propose for the House of Lords to elect members on a proportional system.  I believe this will be more popular for a revising chamber as it would not interfere with the requirement for stable government.  Importantly it would give the opportunity for more minor parties to have national figures, buildout a base, and democratically represent the people.

The new Lords would be elected using something similar to the modified D’Hondt allocation used in London.  London has a mixture of geographical super-constituencies with further members elected from a party list to make the total Assembly Members from each party proportional to the votes cast for that party.  In London a party must win at least 5% of the party list vote in order to win any seats.  That same measure could be kept for regional groupings or a lower national number could be used.  A consequence of this would be sizable groupings for the Green Party and Brexit Party.  You would also likely see a small number of Lords representing the Yorkshire Party, Christian Peoples Alliance, UKIP and even the Independent Group for Change (if you can remember them).  This would be great for democracy.  These parties have support, even when running in almost impossible first past the post elections, why shouldn’t they and others have the opportunity to build a national base?

Differentiation

An elected second chamber then raises at least 3 major questions.

  • How would an elected second chamber differ from the House of Commons?
  • Would it not feel it had its own mandate?
  • How much would it cost?

All three can be tackled by making the role of Lords quite separate from that of the MPs.  The Lords today has 777 members.  A new chamber similar in size to the commons at say 600 members would reduce what we have today, stop individual Lords being too powerful, and allow for a reasonably large grouping of Lords for smaller parties.  A party getting 1% would have ~6 members, a party getting 5% (attainable regularly by the Greens and revised Brexit Party) would have ~30 members.  These groups would provide a professional backbone to these parties, that could start to compete with the 3 main national parties.

600 Lords would be expensive, so I propose we make them part time.  Pay them half of what an MP is on, and reduce their hours accordingly.  A revising chamber needs time to study legislation and debate, but this is not the amount of time needed in the commons.  Have regular hours and sittings, and encourage the Lords to have outside work.  This way they will more closely represent us by working with us.  Have no expectation of constituency work.  MPs have become one part parliamentarian and one part social worker.  We don’t need Lords to undertake the same role.  They can be parliamentarians, working to set regular hours and have part time day jobs around that.

To reflect this legislative role, Lords would not need the expenses of MPs.  No local expenses beyond that to cover a home office, some travel and minimal costs for some public meetings.  Staff can work centrally and be attached to the grouping rather than individual Lords.  Additional specialist knowledge on legislation should also be available much as it is today.  Members would need to be able to claim reasonable expenses for staying in London but with dates fixed in advance these can be kept down and must not include paying for second homes.

I also propose the Lords do copy one idea from the US Senate.  That they be elected on fixed dates and terms, every 6 years with one third elected every two years.  This will ensure they reflect the changing nature of UK politics over time, rather than one snapshot.  It will give Lords time to learn the role and elections to multi member constituencies, with regional top up lists, could be held to coincide with the main local election dates to keep costs down.  Regular elections also keep parties more in touch with their voters and allow small parties opportunities to build support.

Future

These proposals would end much of the cronyism and see a new House of Lords with elected members.  Members focused on parliamentary legislation, members who reflect the electoral wishes of voters and in doing so allow new parties and ideas a chance to grow.  The members would not be overpaid with many having second ‘normal’ part time jobs.  Expenses and overall costs would likely go up but be kept in check, and we would retain the strong government model the House of Commons generally (if not so much recently) delivers.

Main Photo by UK Parliament – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sLZBWcPklk @ 01:06, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56761114

How do we recover? – Some ideas for the post Covid Britain.

Image © Acabashi; Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 4.0; Source: Wikimedia Commons

Opinion Piece by Michael Swadling

Each day sadly the death toll keeps rising, and on any given day the economic news keeps getting worse.  We are in a lockdown with social distancing in place to save lives.

But at some point this will end, we will get back to normal and we must look to recover from the economic slump.  My own economics philosophy being somewhat laissez faire means I would like government generally to do as little as possible, however that is neither realistically what will happen, nor what is likely to be acceptable in our democracy today.  Rather than focus solely on what I would want, I intend to also look at some policies that might realistically be used to aid the recovery.

The new baseline

The lockdown will have already changed some things that will never change back.  The longer this goes the greater and more ingrained these changes will become.  Whole industries are successfully working from home.  More people are getting food and other shopping delivered.  Many of us are becoming heavy users of streaming media services.  We are getting out the habit of commuting or even just going for a drive.

With the loss of life, fear will drive many people to reasonably want to avoid unnecessary contact even when the lockdown is lifted.  It is reasonable to assume the lockdown will be lifted in stages, and quite likely it might be reintroduced if we see a second spike in contagion.  Many will find their normal routines disrupted for 6 months or more.

What might these changes mean?  Who are the economic winners and losers?  Here are some thoughts on how things might have already changed.

Economic winners

  • Whether for streaming media or working from home, we have all become super dependent on our broadband.  Companies often have duel supply for such a critical service.  It is reasonable to assume some households may do the same and that suppliers will start to provide emergency callout services as happens with many utilities today.
  • At one end of the broadband connection is the single point failure in many homes of the laptop or home PC.  Expect sales of small inexpensive thin client technology to go up as people require some home redundancy and capability for multiple users.  Companies have already been moving to ‘the cloud’ for providing services for customers and staff.  As it becomes apparent more of the staff are themselves in the cloud rather than the office these services will further take off.
  • Without the commute or as much international travel people expect to be ‘always on’.  This was already happening as more buses, trains, cars, and airplanes have network connectivity, and WiFi, expect this to intensify, and telecoms companies to benefit.
  • Also already happening was the move from the shopping centre to Amazon delivery.  This will only accelerate.  Many people like shopping and will no doubt rush back once the shops are open again, but will they spend much?  Will they make up for the many spending more conveniently online?  Amazon, other delivery services and delivery jobs are bound to grow.
  • Lots of people are facing and will face real economic hardship from this period.  Too few people and businesses have emergency savings to survive even the smallest setback.  In time, as people re-find work and as they can, expect more people to save more for a rainy day.
  • All high streets will be devastated with lost shops.  Pubs and restaurants may initially boom, but then struggle with the debts of the period of lockdown.  However in the medium to long term as more people work from home, as people rediscover their local shops, local high streets may do well.  A day working from home is greatly brightened by popping to see a friendly face in a local store.

Economic losers

  • If your workforce can operate from home why would companies pay for the upkeep of massive city centre offices?  Some offices are still needed.  There is no substitute for face to face meetings, but these could accommodate say 10-15% of your workforce not the 90-100% they do today.
  • The long term trend has been to move spending from products to experiences.  People want fewer physical items and more memories.  The lockdown has made many realise what really matters in life, and it isn’t things.  Between fear of further economic uncertainty, changing habits and economic suffering, consumerism could be on a steep decline.
  • Town centre shopping is on the decline.  Fewer big shopping centres are being built, people have fewer reasons to visit them.  With more people working from home, a move from products  to experiences, and economic uncertainty town centre shopping will continue to suffer.  In the same way the department store and supermarkets changed the shopping experience in the past, someone will need to reimagine the whole shopping experience to get people out to revive these centres.
  • More working from home, more people avoiding the commute.  How many will travel abroad or even far from home if they are worried about another shutdown of travel or period of confinement?  Travel, be it commuting or further afield is likely to decrease for some time to come.

At first glance more savings and less consumerism might look like positive outcomes, but our economy requires people to spend money to create jobs.  More savings means more supply or even an oversupply of money needing a home, and it is likely to be lent badly.  Some rebalancing is a good thing but ideally in moderation.

“Net Zero emission targets were economy killers before Covid-19, they won’t help now.  People are already changing their habits, with more working from home.  Carbon emissions are already falling and are likely to stay lower.  We will be in an economic slump, government should avoid making things worse with more punitive changes”

Avoid making things worse

The first step to recovery must be to avoid making things worse.  Net Zero emission targets were economy killers before Covid-19, they won’t help now.  People are already changing their habits, with more working from home.  Carbon emissions are already falling and are likely to stay lower.  We will be in an economic slump, government should avoid making things worse with more punitive changes.  The other reason to delay implementation of Net Zero targets is whilst people may choose to change their habits, after a few months of lockdown they will resent and likely rebel against being forced to change their habits.

Every year governments like to introduce more regulations and laws.  A few of the new laws for 2020 can be found here.  Many are good laws, no doubt all done with the best intentions, but stop, hold fire don’t do any more.  We have already seen further implementation of IR35 delayed.  Scrap it, and scrap any more bright ideas for the next couple of years.  Whilst we’re at it many government processes and regulations will have been streamlined or just removed to get vital products to the front line.  Keep them streamline, don’t revert, if the new processes are good enough for a pandemic they are good enough at all times.  Let businesses have a period of a freer environment, without the dead hand of the bureaucrat crashing down on them.

Enable opportunities don’t force change

Many people will struggle with mental health issues being cooped up.  Many will lose a business they have spent many years building, many more will lose their jobs.  People are broadly accepting the need to socially distance, although we saw a quick backlash to some initial heavy handedness from the police.  People will quickly resent the government trying to force the pace of change.

Many a public health civil servant will see the pub closures as a chance to change habits, many in Treasury will like the tighter control they have on the economy.  Many will think command economics work.  This needs to be resisted.  People and businesses will respond to light touch incentives and likely push back on heavy handedness.  I would like government to take next to no action, that may be too much to ask, but government signposting the way rather than forcing change will be the path to recovery.

Reinstate free speech

A huge amount of liberty has been given up during the lockdown.  Government needs to prove that our freedoms are not traveling down a one way street from us to them.  Health advice will dictate timelines for the returning of many basic rights.  But government could do more and do it now.  The Public Order Act 1986, The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and The Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 all impose restrictions on our speech.

Hate speech is wrong, people shouldn’t aim to insult others based on immutable characteristics but likewise government shouldn’t legislate against our most fundamental right to free speech.  Repealing these more egregious parts of these and other laws will send a message, freedom matters.  That message is important in itself, it’s important for the confidence of the nation, and a nation of clear and limited laws will encourage investment to rebuild our economy.

“Build toll roads, railways, bridges, ports funded by and with profits to the private sector.  As a result of private risk taking, better more effective projects are likely to be chosen”

Build, build, build, toll roads

The Conservative victory at the 2019 election had manifesto commitments to significant infrastructure investment.  The massive cost of the Covid-19 emergency and the reduced tax base will make further borrowing difficult.  But investment can still come and it can come in the form it always should have, from the private sector.  Build toll roads, railways, bridges, ports funded by and with profits to the private sector.  As a result of private risk taking, better more effective projects are likely to be chosen.  If some support is needed cheap borrowing could come from publicly backed bond schemes, which provide a route to encourage and soak up savings.  It also provides for a sense of everyone ‘doing their bit’.  We get the infrastructure we need and the user of it rightly pays.

Free ports

The government has already announced a consultation on Freeports.  The freeports would have different customs rules than the rest of the country, act as innovative hubs, boost trade, and generate employment opportunities in some of our most deprived communities.  Global trade is likely to reduce as a result of the pandemic.  Anything to increase trade is to be welcomed.  Nothing should be allowed to get in the way of delivering on these plans.

Supply chain sourcing, with a UK mix

In the US we already are seeing a reluctance to buy goods marked ‘Made in China’.  We have already seen French border guards impound trucks with face masks bound for Britain and India limit medicine exports.  Expect economic protectionism to return often directed by consumers rather than governments.

Many companies are now seeing the perils of long supply chains, and our national security is at risk if much needed medical supplies can only be sourced from abroad.  Lots of companies will naturally look to move more of their supply chain into the UK.  It may be prudent for government to work with suppliers to ensure some key industries source, at least in part, from the UK, or for the government to source from the UK for key items.

Manufacturing closer to home

If supply chains are likely to want to move onshore we need to make manufacturing cheaper.  The US saw a massive boom in manufacturing when energy prices dropped as a result of Shale Gas.  World energy prices are in steep decline, government should reduce taxes to ensure more of this is passed onto the end user.

The Annual Investment Allowance is used to deduct the cost of plant and machinery equipment.  The maximum deduction has already increased from £200,000 to £1,000,000 for 2020.  This is great news, but frankly why stop there?  Let’s see a real commitment by making a permanent increase of say £10,000,000 to really bring back manufacturing to our shores.

Support the high street

The  chancellor had announced a business rate holiday for retail and leisure firms.  This will bring relief during this period, rates are a problem but government’s long term options to reduce tax when they have a massive deficit are limited.  Reducing duty on alcohol in pubs could actually increase the tax take as it keeps business afloat and pubs act a magnets for their local high street.

With the ease of online deliveries, going shopping needs to be about more than just procuring goods and services, it needs to be an experience.  Travel to the US, Canada or Australia, and it’s much more common for bars, restaurants and shops to offer free WiFi.  Government through tax breaks, councils through helping to organise, and granting planning permission, can assist high streets and local business districts to provide publicly available free WiFi.  Give people a reason to stay, browse and buy, let them stay online and connected.

After the lockdown one practically free solution could be to encourage or better still instruct councils to provide 3 or more hours of free or cheap parking for all local high streets.  Stop the relentless drive to stop people driving to the shops, stop punishing people for wanting to park up and use local facilities.  Even use tax breaks to encourage private enterprise to set-up car parks.  Let people get to the high street so they can support their local community.

“It would be sensible for the government to make the capital spend on creating and possibly warehousing a significantly increased surge capacity in ICU equipment.  The equipment won’t be needed immediately, and can be placed on a longer procurement timeline with British businesses thereby securing many jobs”

Heightened health service surge capacity

We are likely to see a long tail to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Governments are warning of further peaks in new cases and possible further lockdowns.  It is likely in future years we will see calls for social  distancing in bad flu seasons.  We will also likely see ongoing greater scrutiny of available health care capacity.  At the start of the crisis the UK had a low per capita ICU bed capacity.  The capacity in normal times matters less than the ability to surge it.  It would be sensible for the government to make the capital spend on creating and possibly warehousing a significantly increased surge capacity in ICU equipment.  The equipment won’t be needed immediately, and can be placed on a longer procurement timeline with British businesses thereby securing many jobs.

We would also need staff for these facilities.  We have seen a nation respond to the great work of the NHS.  Let’s encourage something similar to the Territorial Army and help organizations like the St John’s Ambulance expand so we have more medically trained people who are ready to step into or backfill for others staffing these positions.

Tourism and travel

Airlines are on the brink, airports are shutdown, the rail franchises have been effectively nationalised.  People will be in the habit of commuting less.  People will be worried about overseas travel while Covid-19 still threatens the globe, and people will have discovered how simple and effective video and audio conferences can be.

How can people be encouraged back out?  Being at home people will become used to being always on.  Get buses, trains, airplanes, bus depots, railways stations, and airports flooded with free WiFi.  Make the traveling experience easier make it less of a chore and let people answer emails or stream a movie whilst travelling.  Government can again make tax breaks available for this.

As part of returning the rail franchises to private ownership government should look to remove barriers to providing more carriages on the railways.  Make the travel experience better, we expect to be crowded for a short commute in rush hour, there is no good reason why a long distance Sunday train ride packs people in like sardines.

As has been said before scope for reduction of taxes will likely be limited.  However charging punitive Air Passenger Duty when few people are traveling is counterproductive.  Sweeping cuts until the industry is back up and running will likely bring in more tax revenue than it costs.

A quick google of a few major airports in the UK and most offer no smoking facilities once airside.  Approximately 15% of people in the UK still smoke.  It  might be very bad for you, but freedom is the freedom to make bad choices.  Given people can be airside for up to 3 hours before a long flight, it is reasonable to offer smoking rooms, enclosed, well ventilated and away from non-smokers.  A small change in the law is needed, and government could encourage a set of people put off flying back to our airports.

5G and 4G for that matter

It is unlikely the prospect of Huawei equipment running our 5G network will be greeted with more glee now than it was before the Covid-19 pandemic.  This will inevitably slow down the rollout of 5G in the UK, but government can help nudge it forward.  More tax breaks, grants, and sped up planning permission will all help.  We shouldn’t forget how good 4G is (it’s what most of us use now), and how much of the country has poor coverage.  Government can again work with providers to help provide greater coverage to rural and even some suburban communities.  Coverage will enable more people to work productively in their home or local communities, help us in the event of a further shutdown and help build productivity outside of London and the South East.

What’s next

We may have a long way to go, and things will change, but we need to get thinking about the future.  Relatively small amounts of government intervention can enable the private sector to grow and embrace the new future.  More home working with less commuting and a little help to build local high streets can go a long way.  Changes to procurement patterns can with a little help be a great opportunity for domestic manufacturing.  Make travel a little easier and encourage people back out.  With restrictions on government borrowing let’s get the private sector to develop the infrastructure of tomorrow.  And after a period of suppressed freedom, let’s go further than reinstating the rights lost at the start of the pandemic, let’s take dramatic steps to making us a truly free country once again.

Debating Society speech – The Global Warming Scare

On February 2nd the Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society debated the motion “Implementing green policies to combat global warming is imperative to save the Earth”

Mike Swadling opposed the debate, and below is his speech delivered to the society in Coulsdon.  As always at this excellent society the debate was good natured, well proposed and drew out great comments from the audience.

“Implementing green policies to combat global warming is imperative to save the Earth” – Opposing motion

In 1970 Harvard biologist George Wald estimated that “civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken”

“At least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.” The Stanford University Professor Paul Ehrlich declared in the April 1970.

In January 1970, Life Magazine reported, “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions:

  • In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution
  • by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half”

In January 2006 Al Gore predicted that we had ten years left before the planet turned into a “total frying pan.” – anyone else have their heating on today?

In 2008, ABC News predicted that New York City would be under water by June 2015. (1)(2) – Nope didn’t happen

Planet Earth might quote Mark Twain in saying “Rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated”

The Premise

I thank the Chair and the members for getting the title right in calling it global warming.  Let’s dispense with the nonsense called “climate change”.

The climate changes.  Yes we know that.  Global temperature is not fixed, we know we had ice ages, we know we have had warming periods.

I believe the premise here is the following:

  • The globe is warming
  • The warming is man-made – if this isn’t as a result of human influenced greenhouse gas emissions, then the currently prescribed actions are meaningless.
  • And finally that the warming will be catastrophic – there is little point in taking action if the impact is only two more weeks of summer and not much else (3)

To believe that last two premises you have to believe in the predictions of the people who told us food would run out in the 1980s and that New York City is currently underwater.

Now I’m not convinced we ran out of food or you can swim to the top floor of the Empire State Building.

It’s important to look at these in detail, as our civilisation, all of this abundance you see around you, that has allowed billions of people to move from calorie insecurity to having commodity goods, in our lifetimes is feed by fuel, mostly fossil fuels.

It is our civilizations manna from heaven.  It is a manna showing no end.  We have more oil reserves than all the oil we have ever used, with new technology opening up even further access to fuel. (4)

If you have a proven, working, source of fuel that reduces pollution great let’s use it.

If you are saying we need to change the basis of our modern civilisation and put at risk the food supply chains for billions of people, you better be dammed sure of your predictions.

Getting Warmer

The first premise on which all others are built is that the world is getting warmer.

  • Warmer since when?
  • Warmer compared to what?

11,000 years ago sitting here would have been cold, very cold.  We wouldn’t be under ice, but Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the North of England all would be.

We would be linked by Ice to Norway and Denmark, and by Land to France. (5)

Are we warmer than then – yes.  But perhaps we would all agree that’s a good thing.

As I’m sure many of you are aware much of our cultural view of white Christmases comes from Charles Dickens stories rather than our actual memories.

Only 11 times in London in the last 60 years has snow fallen on Christmas day. (6) (7)

Of course this was not always so.

The River Thames held its first frost fair in 1608 and the last was in 1814.  These took place during the Little Ice Age lasting from about 1300 to about 1850. (39)

Clearly we have warmed since then.  The Little Ice Age started without man made input and ended before any serious global industrialisation.

It’s almost as if temperatures change without a man mad cause.  Incidentally the Coldest Christmas day on record since 1659 was in 2010. – so much for global warming.

But what if I was to pick other dates, different dates to measure warming.  What might conclude?

The English wine market is once again growing, centred in the South East and South West.

Of course the Romans grew grapes and made wine at Hadrian’s Wall, not something we could do today without artificial heaters. (8)

Later tax records show the Britons extensively grew their own wine grapes in the 11th century. (9)

Compared to then we are colder not warming.

The later growing took place in the Medieval Warm Period lasting from around 950 to  1250 AD. (10)

The warming during this period saw the Vikings break out of Scandinavia concur much of Europe and even grow barley in Greenland. (11)

The same warming in the east produced more rain, and grass for the grazing animals that Genghis Khan’s Mongolian horseman rode and feed off.

This abundance allowed his descendants conquer much of Eurasia. (12)

The Medieval Warm Period was not caused by car journeys, aircraft, coal fuelled power stations or even ‘trial by fire’ used by Saxons.
The climate changes it often has little to do with man.

Compared to then we are colder not warming.

Once again I ask.

  • Warmer since when?
  • Warmer compared to what?

When was this ideal period of warmth.  Who is to judge this.

Why are the starting dates that prove the climate scientist clams we are warming any more valid than the start dates I have used?

After all these are the same climate scientists that told us. (13) (14)

  • In 2002 that Britain would suffer a “famine” within 10 years.
  • And that in 2009 we had “eight years to save the planet”

The Scientists

We are often told Climate Change is Settled Science.  Yet Science is knowledge that is testable, repeatable, observable, and falsifiable. (15) (16)

And it’s that falsifiable that really matters here.  Science cannot by definition ever be settled.

If a claim can’t be falsified it’s a matter of faith, of religion, of ideology, but never ever Science.

We often here the claim 97% of scientists believe in manmade global warming.  But who are these scientists?

It’s really not clear, where the figure comes from.

One source of support for this is from the University of Illinoi.  A survey which over 3000 scientists responded to, selected a subset of just 77 who said they agreed that ‘global temperatures had generally risen since 1800, and that human activity is a “significant contributing fact”. (17) (18)

Is this the basis on which to change the modern world economy? On the say of just 77 carefully selected opinions?

Should we give up the industrialisation that dragged our ancestors out of poverty and is still giving the first real hope of a good life to billions in the developing world, on this basis?

Another often made claim is that “2,500 scientists of the UNs Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC agree that humans are causing a climate crisis.”

Except of course it’s simply not true.

The number is based on the number of scientist reviewers of all of the IPCC reports.  Only 600 were involved in the report with this statement and proposals. (19)

It’s not even clear that the 600 all agreed with the outcome of the report.

Whilst on the subject of the IPCC, their 2001 report featured the Hockey Stick graph.  This showed broadly flat temperatures with a sharp upturn.  The graph was used to prove the need for urgent change.

The now discredited and dropped hockey stick graph ignored the medieval warming period and little ice age as if they simple didn’t happen. (20)

We could all show the bank manager a graph of our increasing bank balance if we ignored all our out goings

These scientists simply ignored the facts to make their argument.

To believe in the projections of these scientists you have to believe the Thames Ice fairs didn’t exist and all evidence of farming in Greenland was simply made up.

 Are we warming?

I was in Sydney the first two weeks of December.  From a view point in the Blue Mountains I could see half a dozen fires over a fifty square area.

It’s tragic, the loss of humans fighting the fires, and animals is something I am sure we all agree is terrible.

But is it anything to do with global warming?

A 1642 expedition saw smoke drifting over the coast of Tasmania and noted blackened trunks and baked earth in the forests.

In 1770, Captain Cook’s crew saw autumn fires in the bush burning on most days of the voyage.

Many of these fires were deliberately set by Aborigines across Australia.

Fire-stick farming was used to producing lusher grass to fatten kangaroos, they also burned fire breaks as a precaution against bushfire. (21)

Australia suffered major bush fire outbreaks in 1851, 1898, 1925, and 1938.

These occurred before the massive industrialisation in India and China and before any of the supposed trends for man-made global warming.

Yes this year’s fires are tragic.  Worse than many remember.

But the causes are complex, environmentalists have stopped the clearing of land near residential areas and stopped selective burning to create fire breaks.

And of course we have Arsonists.  New South Wales Police reported 716 of this year’s fires did not occur naturally. (22) (23)

After the hurricane seasons of 2010, 11, and 12 the second and joint third most active years on record, we were told due to global warming hurricanes would become common place.

Except of course in 2013 we had the fewest hurricanes since 1930.  The number of storms have been fairly low and stable ever since.

Around here we on occasion have some flooding.

When a story of flooding in the UK hits the news, we hear the familiar cry of climate change.

Yet despite heavy and consistent rain this winter we have thankfully had little flooding.  We see the here and now, we often forget the past was often as bad s.

Much as when Devon and Somerset flooded in 2013 largely because it appears we stopped dredging local water ways.  Natural disasters can have a man-made component.  But let’s not confuse that with a systemic problem.

Odd natural events happen, they make compelling stories, but they are not a reason to change the world.

If the impact of global warming is hard to find it’s worth asking, are we even warming?

Even if we ignore the need for an answer to the question “compared to when” and that’s a massive issue to ignore, are we warming right now?

“Between the start of 1997 and the end of 2014, average global surface temperature stalled.  This 18-year period is known as the global warming pause” (24)

Recently the Met Office concluded the last decade was the second hottest in the past 100 years in the UK, slightly behind 2000 to 2009. – So err I make that we are cooling decade on decade. (25)

The official NASA global temperature data shows from February 2016 to February 2018 “global average temperatures dropped by 0.56 degrees Celsius”. The biggest two-year drop in the past century. (26)

Contrary to predictions polar bear numbers have never been higher rising 30% since 2005.

CO2 is now at about 412 ppm, or 0.041%.  This plant food is helping the earth become greener.

Despite the supposedly dangerous level of CO2 of 1 part per 2400.  Life has never been better. (27)

  • Infant mortality has never been lower.
  • Life expectancy never higher.
  • Poverty never lower.
  • An estimated 3.2 billion people, or 42 percent of the total world population, are now in the global middle class.  Many of them enjoying today in countries we used to consider third world a better standard of living than some of us grew up with.

Don’t believe the doom mongers.  The world is doing just great.  It’s not clear if it’s warming, it is clear the scientists predictions are wrong.

Why so wrong?

Why are the scientists and their political bedfellows getting the predictions so wrong?

Scientist is never settled and not about consensus, but scientists are people.  They naturally want to be part of the majority.  They want to conform.

For many years around the middle of the last century many scientists wouldn’t support the Big Bang theory even as more and more evidence with experiment substantiated it.

Science had for some time believed in the steady state theory of the universe.  This is had always existed.  Many Scientists didn’t want to believe in the idea of a beginning to the universe because it opened the possibility of a beginner or a god, something that the then modern science was against.

Yet the evidence was there.  Scientists understandably being people weren’t following the evidence but rather the sticking to the ruleset they had been brought up in. (28)

Scientists now, are driven by grants and agendas to support global warming.  When your economic self-interest is driven by a viewpoint it becomes easier to follow that viewpoint.

Between 1989 and 2009 the US Federal Government funded to the tune of $1.6 billion and year climate studies. (29)  Clearly no one was expected to find no change to keep the money coming in.

I am not suggesting corruption in these cases, more I am simply noting it is much easier for your research to find the required answer when paying your mortgage depends on it.

Where there was clear corruption however was with the 2009 Climategate scandal.  Leaked emails from the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit, showed a number of scientists collaborating to manipulate data.

This manipulation included:

  • Changing data to show a 156 year warming trend in New Zealand that simply hadn’t happen.
  • Eliminating 75% of the world’s temperature stations from new data with a clear bias toward removing higher-latitude, high-altitude locations. (30)

There are a number of possible reasons politicians push the climate change agenda.

The Chinese like it because we hamper western industry whilst they continue to build a new coal fuelled power station every other week.

Many of our politicians like that all solutions to global warming require more taxes, and power for the politicians, and less rights for the people to make choices in their own lives.

They also like the new jobs it creates and the power they have to disperse them.

Croydon Council recently announced it has a appointed a lead for their Climate Crisis Commission.  They can’t collect the bins on time, planning is a joke but the council can appoint people to a Climate Commission. (31)

Some like Al Gore I suspect do it simply for the money.  Why else would you preach climate catastrophe and rising sea levels whilst spending $8,8million on an ocean front villa with six fireplaces, five bedrooms and nine bathrooms. (32)

You either believe the oceans are rising or you buy a beach property, surely not both.

It’s not so clear why so many celebrities and indeed some of our own royalty are so keen to push green policies.  My own view is they simply don’t like the plebs spoiling the holiday destinations.

I would not normally be some unkind in assigning motive, but I can simply find no other reason to understand how you can fly by private jet to a climate change camp where you then deliver a speech about the environment while barefoot, as Prince Harry did last year. (33)

Why else would Emma Thompson fly the 5,400 miles from LA to London to support the Extinction Rebellion protests? (34)

Can I ask your indulgence for a show of hands on who has flown in the past year….

Multi-Millionaires Al, Harry and Emma, want to stop you doing that. 

And they are so determined that they won’t stop buying mansions or jetting around the globe, until they have stopped you having your annual fortnight in the sun!

What to do?

We all want to live in a good environment, we want to improve the world around us.  The best way to do that is to simply let people get rich.

Poor nations and peoples care little for the environment, survival rightly takes precedence.

As nations like us move to the post industrial age, and we value experiences more that things, we use less carbon.

Our carbon output per person has gone down for 6 years, this has little to do with direct green policies, and much to do with technology improvements. (35)

New Zealand is planting a billion tress, partly because they can afford to. (36)

The amount of land used to produce food for the every growing population is stable, and in the west reducing, with some being returned to the wild.  New science, actual science not computer models has made this possible. (37)

We didn’t face starvation, our cities are still above water, and you are still at risk of polar bear attack in the icy north pole.

We are warmer than two centuries ago, but colder than when Genghis threaten much of the globe.  The biggest threat many face today is in a massively reduced standard of living following the policies preached to us by the rich and powerful.

Life is good, and getting better.

GDP per capita in Africa has increased in real terms by 60% since the year 2000, by 50% in Latin America, and doubled in Asia.

That’s a real terms increase in prosperity.  Why would you want to change that?

Why would we want to put at risk the abundance we have based only on the predictions and fear of those so often proved wrong?

Summary

The world is doing well, people’s lives which were through all of human history an immense struggle are improving, all over the globe.

Let’s not throw that all away for fanciful and consistently wrong computer models.

Nigel Lawson sums up the situation well.

‘The fact remains that the most careful empirical studies show that, so far at least, there has been no perceptible increase, globally, in either the number or the severity of extreme weather events.  And, as a happy coda, these studies also show that, thanks to scientific and material progress, there has been a massive reduction, worldwide, in deaths from extreme weather events.’

In some ways worse that the economic impact of the global warming scare is the impact to the mental health of the next generation of adults.

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists there is now a condition called eco-anxiety.

Talk of a ‘climate crisis’ has led to an upsurge in young people reporting feelings of anxiety, helplessness and guilt. (38)

This Christmas Channel 4 screened a special edition of Gogglebox with children watching claims by Extinction Rebellion that ‘scientists say we have only 11 years to act’.

One child counted on her fingers how many years she had left to live and worked out that, the world could end when she was just 19.

One mother described how her daughters had asked what the point was in taking their GCSEs if they weren’t even going to be here a few years later.

We are all old enough to know to ignore Prince Charles when he says the world is ending in just 11 years, someone who is 11 years old is not.

Incident the Prince said that the world was ending in 11 years, over 11 years ago.

Children are easily influenced.  Especially once teenagers they like little more than to tell their parents how wrong they and their whole generation is.

Telling children the world will end before they get to be adults is immoral, it damages their mental health and has been proved time and time again patently false.

Naturally want to be part of something big, we like to think our influence on the world around us is greater than it really it.

The world is just fine, humanity is doing great.

Keep the bureaucrats out the way and the natural inventiveness of mankind will ensure things keep getting better.

Leave well alone and lets enjoy the great world we live in.

References:

Image by Mojca JJ from Pixabay

Newly risen, how brightly you shine

Never let it be said the Croydon Constitutionalists don’t work for their readers.  In early December Mike Swadling undertook the sacrifice of visiting Australia, to be able to share some thoughts on their politics with you, and ok take in a little sun.  Indeed the title of this article is translated from the Latin state motto of New South Wales, ‘Orta recens quam pura nites’.  It’s fair to say this is an incredibly appropriate motto.

I had hoped to meet-up with the, or a Libertarian Party in Australia much as I have previously in the US making the sacrifice of a visit to the Libertarian Party of Orange County, California.  Sadly I was not able to get in touch with the party, partly because there isn’t much of a separate libertarian strain of Australian politics, indeed only one member of the federal parliament describes themselves as a libertarian, although a couple do descript themselves as Classical Liberals.

This might be partly because politics on the right in Australia is already coalition between the Liberal Party, the main centre right party and more city based and the more country based National Party.  This coalition does allow for a more broad base for people on the economic right.  It may also be partly because voting is compulsory, this results in turnout often around 91% (a $20 fine for not voting in federal elections) and a centralisation of parties.

At a federal level the general election held in May 2019 resulted in a big win for the Coalition in both the House of Representatives and Senate.  This came as a surprise to the national and global media, in the same way that Brexit and Trumps wins came as a surprise.  That all too often the media lives in a bubble that doesn’t speak to the people who voted., Leave, for Trump and for the Coalition was all too evident in their reaction to the win.  Indeed I have written and spoke about this before citing how in 2013 the Ozzies BBC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, journalists were surveyed with 41% saying they would vote Green, 32% Labor and just 14.7% for the Coalition.  At the next Australian general election the Coalition received 45% of the vote, and the Greens just 8.6 percent.  If you’re interested in knowing more about the Federal Elections I would recommend Helen Dale on Triggernometry after you have finished reading and sharing this page with you all friends of course.

New South Wales

My first encounter down under with Australian politics was to discover this delightful poster on a lamp post in Darling Harbour, Sydney.

I wondered if Jeremy Corbyn worried about his impending election defeat had escaped the country early.  Being in an area where property prices start around the A$1.5million mark (~£750K) and increase quickly, how are these people not already the rich?  Maybe the Islington set had joined me?

My next encounter was a protest against the Carmichael coal mine, set-up in Queensland.  The Stop Adani group appeared to be protesting a private party at Luna Park on Sydney Bay.  The protest was peaceful and from the harbour ferry looked fairly good natured, if a little loud.

A country that has had 28 years of economic growth can afford some environmental protests.  However much of that growth is based on the sale of natural resources including coal to the ever hungry Chinese market.  The fact that the protest wasn’t better attended may be in part because Australia has recently recorded its second straight quarter where the economy shrank on a per capita basis.  Uncertainty is also growing because of increasing property prices which are pricing people further away from jobs.  A private coal mine provides well paid jobs, available to people with a range of educational backgrounds and jobs that can’t be exported.  What’s not to like about that.

It’s safe to say most people didn’t pay too much attention to the protest preferring to enjoy for view of Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House.

Fair dinkum

By and large the Australians I encountered where not that bothered by politics.  In a country where the weather is hot and life is pretty good, who can blame them.  One of the immediate things I noticed about Australia was the lack of Police.  Not that it felt like they were needed, it was in my limited experience a country at ease.

There are challenges, not least because China looms large.  Chinese millionaires and billionaires are understandably keen to move their wealth out of the communist state.  This has led to a major property investment in Sydney and the city expanding with new blocks of flat around railway stations in the suburbs (much like London) paid for with Chinese money. This change to an area creates some concern in areas that were full of detached Australian houses, but thankfully no real backlash.  Chinese students are another area of concern.  Australia has 208,000 Chinese students, this brings in much income to the universities, but also means something like 10% of all students are from China.  This number is large, really large in a country of 24 million people.  Walking around Sydney and Melbourne you are aware of the Chinese influence.  Australia is a nation of immigrants and blends a variety of peoples into being Australians exceptionally well.  It needs to continue the self-belief to do that.

The expansion around Sydney is causing problems many of us in Croydon understand as the previous suburbs become part of the city.  An example of this and the part us Croydonians might not understand is at Yarra bay.  The bay which is part of Bottony Bay where Captain Cook first made land in Australia, is at risk of becoming part of a port for visiting cruise ships taking people to Sydney.  The locals are unhappy, and at 8 and a half miles from the CBD (Central Business District where the main attractions are) it does seem an odd choice.  However Sydney Bay is busy and often has a few cruise ships in it.  Whilst maybe not this solution, it’s easy it see the need to change things.  The tricky part for Croydonians is imagining the River Wandle over burdened with tourists.

The woke crowd is around in Australia.  In the public buildings there is always someone keen to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land.  In the many zoos and wildlife parks you are constantly told how everything is endangered.  With a population density of 9 people per square mile, I suspect many species in Australia really aren’t.  Checking the numbers for Koala Bears, you see estimates from experts in the range of 329,000 to 43,000 with doomsdayer predictions rather than any sense of actual facts.  The Immigration Museum in Melbourne was painfully politically correct, but the Shrine of Remembrance was both fitting and proudly patriotic.

But Australians are by and large unaffected by it all.  At one stop in a League Club, talk turned to the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey.  The government pledged to facilitate a private member’s bill to legalise same-sex marriage in the event of a “Yes” outcome.  It’s fair to say most of those around needed to be reminded of the vote.  The outcome was 61.6% in favour of same-sex marriage.  Largely the people I was with didn’t feel strongly about it, and felt free to talk about the pros and cons of the decision without entrenched views in a way you couldn’t imagine happening in London.  Rather than taking a strong stance on the issue they were more interested in ensuring your reporter had another pitcher of VB.  Rather than make my excuses and leave, I felt best to stay to ensure I was a gracious guest and good representative of the mother country.

The League Clubs and Returned and Services League of Australia Clubs (RSL) are interesting places, supporting respectively rugby league clubs and former service men and women.  The clubs are often major venues with a mix of places to eat, drink, be entertained and importantly gamble!  The Pubs as we would think of them are often called Hotels due to historic licencing laws.  These clubs are the main entertainment venue in the sprawling suburbs.

One welcome input from politics was Hawke’s LargerBob Hawke was the Australian PM of much of my childhood.  Many Australians reasonably blame him for the move from a laissez-faire Australia to today’s more overtly taxed and regulated nation.  However the larger was great and policies aside, we can all only wish all political legacies taste so sweet.

Parliaments

Australia is a federal nation.  Each state and territory has significant independence from the national government in Canberra.  So each state has its own parliament.

My first visit was to the New South Wales Parliament in Sydney.  At first glance you will notice how similar to the UK parliament it is.  The parliament is split between the Assembly and Council.  These broadly represent the equivalent of the House of Commons and House of Lords.  If you weren’t clear about that correlation the Green and Red benches and carpets make it clear.  On top of that the fact Hansard take notes in parliament and the Assembly calls out Stranger in the House if they see a non-member cements the deal.

They admit they copied the model from the UK.  The Britishness of the founder members and the honouring of the Queens visit make it clear how closely we are aligned.  The Assembly currently has the Coalition in the majority, members are elected in single member constituencies using a preferential system.  The Council also held by the Coalition is elected by proportional representation in which the whole state is a single electorate.  Could this be a better model for the UK to import from the former colony?

The NWS Parliament council chamber is quite small, frankly as it should be.  It won’t come as a great surprise the Parliament building keeps expanding as its members ‘require’ greater space and acquire greater powers.

Assemblies of New South Wales and Victoria.
You could almost play spot the difference.

The Victoria Parliament in Melbourne, also models itself on the UK parliament.  My reputation preceding me meant I was granted a private tour, or no one else turned up on the day.  I will let you choose the reason.

Victoria and specifically Melbourne split themselves from New South Wales in 1850 and a rivalry (bordering on contempt) still exists today.  Victoria is politically to the left of New South Wales.  The current government is Labor with a large majority in the Assembly and being the largest party in the Council.  As with New South Wales the Assembly members are elected in single member constituencies using a preferential system.  The Council is elected from multi member super constituencies.   The more proportional system leads to some smaller parties like the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, Justice focused on “putting victims above criminals”, Animal Justice Party, Transport Matters Party opposed to the deregulation of taxis, and The Reason Party a “civil libertarian alternative” formally known as the Australian Sex Party.

This leftness of Victoria has seen a more ‘progressive’ set of laws from the parliament.  My otherwise excellent tour guide was keen to point out that the Victoria Parliament was the first to pass laws for seat belt use and to allow assisted dying.  As if infringing liberty and making suicides easier were positives.

Still the parliament is representative.  Despite moves to ‘collaborate’ and align laws across all the states in Australia, as we find leaving the EU, more devolved power at a local level, meeting the different needs of different areas is immensely positive.

Sports Mad

The last sacrifice your intrepid reporter undertook was to tour the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) the 100,024 capacity home of Australian Cricket and Australian Rules Football.  The ground is home to 4 Australian rules football teams and the local area includes a Rugby League and Football (soccer to them) stadium and is home to the Australian Open at Melbourne Park.

The record attendance at the MCG was 143,750 for Billy Graham in 1959.  I mention this because I find it an interesting fact, and to note as someone who isn’t particularly religious it’s small wonder so many were brought together to praise god in a country quite so wonderful.

Title image by Squiresy92 with elements adapted from SodacanOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

How to shrink government

Author: Michael Swadling

During the general election campaign all parties seemed to have limitless spending commitments.  Labour and the Green Party truly believed that there was a magic money tree, but the Conservatives were little better.  No one with the notable exception of the few Libertarian Party candidates seriously spoke about shrinking government.

There are no votes in shrinking the scope of the NHS, or reducing spending on Education.  With an ageing population it is unlikely any government could or would want to do anything other than continue to escalate spending on Health and Social Services.

There are however many areas of government where spending could be reduced.  There are similarly many areas where simply reducing the rules and schemes of government could result in better outcomes, and less impact from the bureaucracy on peoples everyday lives.

I believe Boris Johnson is in his heart a small government man, senior ministers like Sajid Jarvid, Priti Patel and Jacob Rees-Mogg are likewise.  There must be scope to reduce some of the pettiness of government and some of its costs with it.

Here a few suggestions, that I believe are politically viable, and would fulfil one or more of;

  • reducing costs;
  • reducing the impact of government on peoples everyday lives;
  • set the tone that government doesn’t need to forever expand.

They like to find little ways to improve our lives.  Here’s an idea, don’t.

Ban departments banning things

Whether it’s action on plastic straws, free plastic bags, smoking almost anywhere, alcohol minimum unit pricing or fracking, government departments like to ban things.  They like to find little ways to improve our lives.  Here’s an idea, don’t.

In addition to the infringement on freedom, each new bright idea, has press releases, memos, new teams, updates to manuals, revised instructions etc. etc. etc.  All of which could be simply removed.  This is quite apart from all the time, effort and money put into the ideas that don’t get approved.

How could you make this happen?  A simply dictate that any government rule change that banned something would need to be approved at full cabinet.  Suddenly all such ideas, would need a killer argument so strong all cabinet members and the Prime Minister would be prepared to sign-up to them.  That should dramatically reduce the number of new bans.  Cost savings may be minimal as staff are moved to other activities, but this might end up with the ‘crazy thought’ of top civil servants focused on their core role rather than generating the next bright idea.

We don’t need to drive at 20mph

Road safety is Britain is great in fact we’re rated number 4 for lack of road traffic deaths.  Everyone knows accidents at 20mph cause less harm than at 30mph, but there is little evidence that 20mph zones improve safety.  Councils up and down the country have rolled out this policy.  With some evidence these traffic measures cause accidents some councils are now looking to remove the speed limits.  Huge amounts of money spent, making lives more complicated, infringing drivers, cluttering our roads, introducing a rule that wasn’t enforced, all the while not even making us safer.

Imagine if this funding and the transport experts working on the changes, had instead been put into making traffic blackspots safer, or easing traffic congestion.

What business of your is it what I as an able minded adult do with or put into my own body?  If it’s not your business what business is it of government?

We don’t need a sugar tax

What business of your is it what I as an able minded adult do with or put into my own body?  If it’s not your business what business is it of government?  Government does need to control for externalities, but what I do to myself, if we live in any sort of free society, must surely be up to me.

Almost as bad as the loss of freedom is the idea doesn’t even work.  People simply consume more product to get the meet the same sugar craving their body has.  It’s also regressive, the poorest households being proportionally taxed the most as food spending is a higher part of their outgoings.

Another government team we can simply scrap, when we stop the government telling us how to live.

Low interest government investment funds

Via the Public Works Load Board local councils are being allowed to borrow vast sums of money at currently low interest rates.  This has in turn encouraged some councils to act as property speculators undertaking some ‘nationalisation’ by the back door in their own area.  In Croydon this has resulted in the council owning the freehold to the Croydon Park Hotel and Colonnades Retail Park on the Purley way.  Over £80 million was spent on these two purchases.  £80 million representing about half of the £167.4 million of Council Tax raised by Croydon 2018/19.   

There are large numbers of staff at council offices up and down the country looking at these purchases.  Arranging the loans, working with the leaseholders, renters, and users of the facilities they purchase.  We’re funding them via our taxes.  Worse we are passing the local and national debt (the Public Works Load Board gets funded, like much of the UK government by borrowing) to our children’s, grandchildren and great grandchildren’s generations. 

Right now, these schemes do appear to work.  The borrowing is cheap, the rents high, and the surplus can fund services, but what if one of these factors were to change.  What if property values went down as they did in the early 90s, or interest rates hit the sustained levels of the 70s or 80s?  What if your council invested in the wrong part of town?  How quickly can a good deal go bad, it’s not like government has a great track record on pretending to be a business.  If it was truly easy to make money this way we all would.

Cut this massive risk from the councils books, make them focus on their core role, and raise taxes in the form of business rates from the private investments and risk of others, not by councillors gambling your money (in fact borrowing money in your name to gamble) at the property casino. 

Simplify School Spending

Pupil premium, Sport Premium, Teachers Pay Grant and Teachers Pension Pay Grant are just some of the unnecessary funding streams for schools.  It’s not that that funds aren’t needed or well used, it’s that the whole teams or departments of people who create, manage and handout these funding streams aren’t needed.  Ultimately money is fungible, all these funds just go into the same big pot.

In my experience, each year the overall totals tend to be the same as the previous year plus inflation.  They just find a new way to make up the same income cake each year, justifying the bureaucracy.  Schools are already judged on outcomes by their local councils, in exam results and by Ofsted.  We don’t need separate funding streams for every bright idea from government, simply add the money to the main funding pool, and make schools accountable for the outcomes (as they already are).  In the process whole departments can go and schools will have clearer funding streams and not find they are awaiting the latest special ‘premium’.

Money Purchase Pension

If you’re self-employed chances are you have a directors or personal pension.  Even most company pensions operate the same way based on money purchased.  You save over the years, at the end of that period you have a pension pot, which will be used to buy an annuity and pay out your pension.  This ultimately is the only fair way to run a pension scheme, it ensures your savings are paying for your pension, and not creating a liability for future generations.

We need to move all new employees of the civil service and local government to these schemes immediately.  Existing pension funds are in place and past contributions must be honoured.  Existing employees should probably move to such a scheme for future contributions, but for now, for simplicity have all new employees added to money purchase schemes.  In the short term this could be more expensive as contributions would likely be more than to the current schemes, but they would be honest.

Assuming people work up to 50 years, in 25 years the government pension deficit problem will be at least 50% gone and in 50 years completely gone, that’s a good start.  Government would stop racking up undisclosed pension debt, and burdening the future.

Please get in touch with the author if you currently borrow money to give to charity.  I don’t expect to be inundated with responses.

Overseas aid

0.7% of Gross National Income or £14.5 billion is spent on overseas aid.  With a government deficit of £41.5 billion in the financial year ending March 2019, equivalent to 1.9% of GDP this is all borrowed money.  That’s money we are indebting future generations with to pay to overseas projects today.  Please get in touch with the author if you currently borrow money to give to charity.  I don’t expect to be inundated with responses.  No sensible person borrows money to give to charity why should government on our behalf?  We know this fixed level has seen end of year trolly dash spending from the department for overseas aid, and some interesting projects like the Ethiopian Spice Girls.

Until such time as the government is in surplus lets pair down this function.  The cash level could stay fixed for a few years whilst existing spending commitments run off.  After that keep to true emergency funding, and let private charity take care if the rest.  Immediately we should abolish the department, and merge it back into the main foreign office, lose a ministers salary (or part of it at least).  No doubt a support team could go, reclaim some office space, get rid of a press team, and comms team, stop buying department stationary etc.  I’m sure the government should find some backbencher in a marginal seat with limited likelihood of promotion, and offer them a seat in the House of Lords if they can close the department down in 6 months.

Publish KPIs

What do government departments do?  What is the purpose of them?  Are they delivering it??  All government departments should publish KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) of what they do and how well they are doing it.  The down side is more effort will be spent collecting stats, but even more, far more effort could be redirected.  If anyone in a department can’t map their job to the delivery of a KPI, in all likelihood they simply don’t need to be there.  Any department not meeting its KPIs should be prohibited from bring forward new ‘bright’ ideas.  Whole teams of civil servants could become dedicated to ensuring the depart does what it should do, not whatever takes their fancy.

Britain owed £1,821.9 billion in the financial year ending March 2019, That’s over £27,000 for every person in Britain.  Let’s start repaying it. 

Repayment of debt

Let’s start a plan to repay government debt.  Britain owed £1,821.9 billion in the financial year ending March 2019, That’s over £27,000 for every person in Britain.  Let’s start repaying it.  Let’s start a plan, maybe a Just Giving page, a commendation for people who give part of their estate to repay the debt, maybe the income from fracking, maybe ringfence part of an existing tax.  As soon as we start repaying the debt, it would make little sense to keep borrowing, this might encourage government to live within its means.  It would be easier to ask a politician why they are borrowing money if we are also trying to repay the debt.

Norway as a sovereign wealth fund worth a Trillion pounds, the Hong Kong and Kuwait both over £500 billion.  We might not be able to do that yet, but let’s at least start to stop the rot, and make government live to a budget like most of us do.

Recruitment policy

Few people believe the civil service couldn’t cope with less staff.  How about 20% less, a number I’m happy to admit I plucked out of thin air, but having undertaken many work restructures not impossible.  Through automation and new working practices, I suspect they could cope with that reduction.  How do we do it?  Simple, for every 5 people that leave only recruit 4, this will take some time to fully implement, but no worries it could become a permanent feature of civil service life for 20 years.  It would certainly make them think about rationalisation.  Each department of government can organise what roles are replaced and which aren’t.  I suspect we would quickly start to see fewer, communications teams, and diversity advisors and more people to do the actual work.

Qualifications for staff

Nurses now all need degrees, with some evidence that bedside care has diminished as a result.  From 2020 all new Police Officers need degrees.  I’m personally not sure if in the event of an altercation you need a Police Officer who knows the theory of altercations or a Officer who is willing to get stuck in.

Most government roles require more qualifications than I and most people have, this can be true for even entry level roles.  Cleary someone whose job it is to advise on nuclear reactors needs to know some, nuclear physics, but do most need degrees or even A levels?  I didn’t and don’t have, yet am not alone in making my way in the world, without these.

It seems reasonable that government roles are open to new joiners at about the same percentage of level of qualifications as the population as a whole.  This would almost certainly be cheaper that what we have today and create good opportunities for large numbers of today’s school leavers.

Get rid of the separate paid governors, and executive boards, their own logos, their own stationary, own comms and press teams.

Merge into their departments all Quangos

Many governments have tried and failed to undertake a ‘bonfire of the quangos’.  Many quangos such as Ofsted perform really important roles.  No one wants to lose their job or position, and this makes it incredibly difficult to close any of these organisations down.

Then don’t, just move the accountability for them and the function, back to where it belongs in a government department.  Close down the “quasi-autonomous” nature of these organisations after all we pay for them and they should be accountable to us.  Get rid of the separate paid governors, and executive boards, their own logos, their own stationary (yes I thing about this), own comms and press teams (and these).  Move them into the government departments and offices.  Stop future separate spending plans, it’s hard to believe this is worth less than 5% of the budget of most of these organisations that’s at least a one year increase they could forgo.

No need to pay people off or spend money on merger costs, just simply bring them in house.  Make executive boards internal staff on the same T&Cs, just don’t replace them when current terms end.  Use up the current stationary, stay in the same offices until you want or choose to move, use the old quango name as the new internal department one.  Merge non-core teams directly into the existing department wide ones, and keep separate IT systems until they are due to be replaced.  Just stop spending more for the future.  Simplify, simplify, simplify and see the size and cost of government reduce.

Implementation

None of these ideas alone wipe billions off government spending.  Together they are intended to set the tone that government doesn’t need to just expand it can also reduce.  None are intended to be very controversial.  All I would venture could pass without very significant public criticism, they might even draw out opposition parties to criticise popular ideas.  We need to move government to a model that is sustainable and for the sake of all our freedoms controllable.

Taxpayers through government should protect and educate you as a child.  Help you if you need it, as an adult.  Then leave you alone, as the rest is up to you.

We recorded a Pubcast on this article available at http://croydonconstitutionalists.uk/pubcast-9-how-to-shrink-government/

Democratically Elected Mayor of Croydon – My Tuppenceworth speech

Our Free Speech event, My tuppenceworth, on Tuesday 19th November gave lots of people the opportunity to speak.  One of those speeches came from Mike Swadling, we have reproduced the text below.

My tuppencyworth sets out to prove what former House of Representatives Speaker Tip O’Neill said “all Politics is local”.

For I would like to talk to you about a Democratically Elected Mayor of Croydon.

Now don’t let the title fool you, this merely reflects the title given in the legislation.

An elected mayor replaces the current council leader, and wow does that leader need replacing.

First some facts about the borough.

  • If Croydon was a city it would be the 8th largest in the UK with over 385,000 people.
  • Over 14,000 businesses are based in Croydon.
  • At an average salary of just over £29,000 we earn about £5,000 more than the UK average.

This numbers hide some huge disparities.

The London Borough of Croydon, was formed in 1965 from the Coulsdon and Purley Urban District and the County Borough of Croydon.

It is really 2 or 3 distinct areas thrown together as part of the Greater London sprawl.

The 60 bus coming into Norbury, travels through the typical inner London communities of Thornton Heath and Broad Green.

Croydon and South Croydon are more typical outer London suburbs.

Then somewhere travelling down from Purley the area turns into rural Surrey as the bus passes and eventually climbs the North Downs into Old Coulsdon.

Those differences exemplify why we need a mayor. 

Today reflecting these differences, Croydon has a Conservative strong hold to the south, a Labour strong hold to the north.  With swing seats in Parliament and on the Council in the centre.

The parties focus overwhelmingly on the swing wards, and frankly they admit this themselves.

But it gets worse….

The leader of the council is selected by the councillors of the winning party.  This could be just 21 votes from councillors, all in safe seats.

This is compounded by over half the councillors being granted special allowances for additional roles, often given to them by the same leader they have just appointed.

An elected mayor will be for voted by all of the people of Croydon,

If they want to win election, and re-election they will need to win substantial numbers of votes from, and represent all of the borough.

We want an executive head we can vote for, someone to drive the town forward, and someone to blame.

Even in this illustrious group, few here will know who at the council is responsible for the potholes that litter the town, or who has responsibility for our 120 parks and open spaces.

Who do we hold accountable for the Children’s Services that continues to be rated as Inadequate by Ofsted?

With a Mayor we know who is responsible and who to hold accountable – it is, the Mayor.

We have a campaign.

It is the only show in town to improve the way Croydon is governed.

We are formed by, and have support from many local residents associations.

We also have support from the Conservatives, Croydon South Labour, The Brexit Party, the Libertarian party and the Christen Peoples Alliance Party.

We need 15,000 signatures and we can then put it to the people.  If you are a Croydon resident sign the petition and give the people of Croydon a free choice.

Debating Society: A small income tax increase is justified to fund social care

The Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society planned to hold two debates in September but ran out of time on the night.  One was planned on “A small income tax increase is justified to fund social care”.

The text below was originally written by Mike Swadling as a speech to be delivered to a live audience for the purpose of a debating society.  Join them for their next debate on Monday 4th November, where the subject will be “It is unrealistic nowadays to have an unarmed police force”.

Other details from debate club nights can be found in CR5 Magazine.

“To use the dreadful term many people are bed blocking what is say a £500 a day bed, because a roughly £500 a month social care package can’t be provided”

Yes pay more

We are at the start of a 25 year period of peak age.  The demographics mean for a generation we will have older people, often needing more care and fewer working age people to pay for it.  This will eventually ease away, but this a challenge facing us now.

I suspect I am not alone in having seen a loved one in hospital, not able to leave for a lack of social care.  To use the dreadful term many people are bed blocking what is say a £500 a day bed, because a roughly £500 a month social care package can’t be provided.

This doesn’t make sense for the patients’ mental or physical health, their family’s needs, costs to the NHS and taxpayers, or the needs of the person requiring that ‘blocked bed’.

That extra funding is needed few would doubt.  The question is how do you provide it?

Laffer Curve

Let me try a little thought experiment with you.

Which do you think would raise more revenue for the government?

An income tax rate of 100% or 0%?

(Answer: both the same £0 why would anyone work to pay 100% tax)

Ok which rate do you think would raise more money for the government?

An income tax rate of 99% or 1%?

(Answer: 1% why would anyone work to pay 99% tax, we all work at a tax rate of more than 1% tax)

An income tax rate of 75% or 25%?

(Answer: 25% why would anyone work to pay 75% tax)

This demonstrates higher tax rates do not necessarily mean higher tax takes.

Known as the Laffer curve after the Economist Arthur Laffer.  It predicts somewhere between 25% and 33% is the point where government income is maximised.

The disincentives in tax, do not outweigh the extra income from higher rates.

Broadly in income tax people are prepared to say two for me, and one for you.  But no more.

“the total tax take has never been lower than 32.5% of GDP and never higher that 37.5% of GDP.  Mostly these fluctuations are around the periods of recessions as the economy rapidly changes.  Higher tax rates don’t increase tax revenue.  People simply refuse to pay it”

Tax

On the UKs average income of about £30,000.

  • you pay about £6,000 in tax and national insurance
  • you are usually be responsible for let’s say half the average £1600 council tax
  • about £200 in car tax
  • you pay about another £200 in air tax for your holiday
  • and close to many of our hearts, 52p on a pint and about £3.5 on a £7 bottle of wine.

It’s not hard to see about a third of our income going in tax.

Total government tax revenue as a percentage of GDP is about 36%, whereas spending is about 37%.

Since the 1970s tax receipts have never exceed 38% of GDP, mostly that have hovered around 35%

  • In this time we have had governments of Labour, Conservative, LibLab Pacts, Conservative Liberal coalitions, the UUP prop up James Callahan, and the DUP prop up Theresa May.
  • In that time basic rate income has been as high as 35% and as low as 20%.
  • The top rate has been as high as    83%    and as low as 40%.
  • It’s not just income tax.  Corporation tax has been as high as 52% and as low as 28%

Yet the total tax take has never been lower than 32.5% of GDP and never higher that 37.5% of GDP.

Mostly these fluctuations are around the periods of recessions as the economy rapidly changes.

Higher tax rates don’t increase tax revenue.  People simply refuse to pay it.

They work less, more of off books, on in the case of the most highly skilled, simply move and work elsewhere to avoid overly burdensome tax rates.

High tax rates kill economic growth.

Savings

If you want to spend more on social care, find an existing poor use of money and reallocate it. You can also reduce the costs of providing the care itself. If I could ask your indulgence with a few suggestions:

  • Merge responsibilities and budgets of the NHS and Social Service.
  • As a result local managers can decide if the best service is provided by funding acute care or stopping bed blocking.
  • As I have said I firmly believe many £500 a day beds are being filled for lack of a £500 a month care package.
  • More money is pouring into the NHS.  You might not think it’s enough, but every year spending increases.  Form 3.7% of GDP in 1970 to 7.1% now, the trend is relentlessly up.
  • Rather than focus on building more and better hospitals for a National Hospital Service, let’s focus on a National Health Service.
  • Let’s see if there are more efficient ways to spend that money, that get better overall outcomes.
  • Let’s get creative.  Some people require a huge amount of care, but lots of fairly active able pensioners and others require a little bit of social care.  At the same time we have problems caring for special needs adults and children and a high cost of nursery care.
  • Let’s look at facilities where we can bring old and young together for both their benefits, and reduce the cost of staffing in the process.
  • Experiments like those carried out by the ExtraCare Charitable Trust or St Monica Trust show such operations reduce depression and improve general health in the elderly whilst increasing maturity and language skills in the young.
  • From 2013 all new Nurses need degrees.  Why?  Does it really require two years in college and 3 in University to empty a bed pan?
  • Are straight A’s needed to provide a good bedside manor?
  • Are these perhaps skills better learnt by doing, rather than by reading a book or sitting in a lecture theatre?
  • Some functions performed by nurses may need additional qualifications but clearly not all.  There is anecdotal evidence that Nurses with degrees are less focused on being a patient’s friend, providing basic comfort or even a clean environment and more on only the work requiring graduate studies.
  • A mixed ward with graduate, on the job highly trained, and new less skilled nurses providing basic care, will be cheaper, and frankly might be better at providing the full spectrum of care needed for patients.

Achieving the same level of care at a cheaper rate per a patient, means more care can be provided, or more money for life saving drugs, or simply a lower charge for those families paying for care.

Summing up

As I have said I think we do need to put more funding into social care.  But an income tax increase is simply the wrong way to provide it.

It may sound good, but it won’t do good. In fact it could have the opposite effect.

If you want more money to spend on social care, re balance government spending and make this a priority.

Vote against this motion, don’t reduce tax take and leave those most in need paying for a nice sounding, but wrong doing proposition.

Photo by The original uploader was Blakwolf at Italian Wikipedia. – Transferred from it.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY 2.5

Debating Society: Priti Patel is right: it’s time to bring back the death penalty

The Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society held a debate in early September on the subject of “Priti Patel is right: it’s time to bring back the death penalty”.  To be fair the Home Secretary had walked back that statement, but it was a good opportunity to discuss capital punishment.

The text below was originally written by Mike Swadling as a speech delivered to a live audience for the purpose of a debating society.  Join them for their next debate on Monday 4th November, where the subject will be “It is unrealistic nowadays to have an unarmed police force”.

Other details from debate club nights can be found in CR5 Magazine.

Eye4eye

Deuteronomy speaks of an eye for an eye.  But the principle predates the Old Testament and is first seen in Babylonian law.  It is also seen in pre-Christian Anglo Saxon law.

Partly thanks to Ghandi people perceive this to be a retaliation rather than a reasonable punishment.  The principle of an eye of an eye, started as a way to ensure punishment was measured and appropriate.

Goods taken would be return, and an injury would see a similar injury endured.

A death would be punishable by a death, not the wiping out of a family or clan, that was in ancient times, all too common.

That the punishment is proportional, in most societies was, and maybe still is a massive leap forward.

Indeed that fairness is engrained in most of us.

  • If someone pick pockets from us, we don’t expect them to be battered or bruised (we might), but we expect some financial punishment or maybe some community service.
  • If they break into our homes we expect some loss of freedom, some extensive community service or a short custodial sentence.
  • If they attack us we expect a long punishing custodial sentence.

Therefore, I ask, who are we, if someone losses their life, to judge that the injury to them, should not be have a fair retribution?

I would like to emphasis here if someone loses their life, they not the friends and family are the primary wronged party. 

Yes other feel the loss, but the real loss is the person whose life was cut short.

Why should they not be entitled to the same retribution from the law as any of us who suffered a lesser crime?

Wrong thinking

We often hear that because we have murders in places that have a death penalty it does work as a deterrent.  It does, and I will come onto that.

But this idea that a punishment, any punishment deters all action, is something that we would apply in no other realm.

Who has ever heard:

  • “If we just bring in a punishment for theft no one will ever steal anything”?
  • “If we punish speeding, no one will speed”?
  • “No one will evades tax, now we have fine for it”?

Indeed many here will have brought up children, I am sure we have all cared for some at some point.

We all know from this that once you set a boundary, no child ever breaks it.

Hold on is that not your experience?

Punishments do deter but don’t stop.  Different punishments deter in different times and places in different ways.  For instance different levels of crime and punishment may happen in different states in the US.

One with capital punishment may have more murders than one without, because, simply they are different places.  In the developed world, most murders occur in cities.

In Australia the outback of the Northern Territory has some of the highest murder rates in the world.  Why?  Its remote, really remote, it’s the place criminals go to hide.  It turns out they are still criminals, they commit murders.  It’s a different place and simply, should be, no more be compared to Sydney, than the hill country of Texas is with the South Side of Chicago.

“Punishments work, and punishments deter crime.  Today we are losing about an extra 330 people year than when we have capital punishment”

It works

Beyond the inherent fairness of capital punishment, Priti Patel is right.  It is time to bring back the death penalty, because it works.

I agree with Nancy Reagan when she said:

“I believe that more people would be alive today if there were a death penalty.”

Or to quote President George W Bush:

“I don’t think you should support the death penalty to seek revenge. I don’t think that’s right. I think the reason to support the death penalty is because it saves other people’s lives”

I want to do a little thought experiment with you.

  • Let’s say a new law in the UK meant murder would be punishable by death if committed on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday, but not if commitment on any other day of the week.
  • Hands up if you think that would result on fewer murders, and keep in mind by its very nature, murder requires some premeditation.  On a Monday, Wednesday or Friday than other days of the week?
  • Of course it would hitmen, wronged lovers, gang members and maybe even some psychopaths would change the day they choose to commit murders, if this was the law.

In the UK we had capital punishment until it was abolished in 1965.  Murders, are measured in rate per 100,000 people.

In Britain thanks to new ideas like Bobbies on the beat and new technology like fingerprints the murder rate started falling in roughly mid-1800s until the mid-1960s.

Thankfully murder is so low, that year or year rates fluctuate but trends can be seen.

We have more detailed statistics from 1900 where the decade saw a murder rate of 0.96 per 100,000.  This fell gradually to 0.75 for the 1930, the era of the great depression.  The rate rose slightly during and just after the war, but come 1959 it was down to 0.59 per 100,000.

In 1965 the rate was at 0.68, 1966, 0.76, 1974, 1.06.

What changed?  What made the British suddenly so much more murderous? 

Could it be?  The death penalty was abolished in 1965 and had basically all but stopped being used a few years earlier?

Punishments work, and punishments deter crime.  The reversal in this loss of innocent lives didn’t stop there.  By 1987 the murder rate was up at 1.19, by 1999, 1.45, by 2002 over 2 per 100,000 were murdered.

Based on today’s population every extra 1 person per 100,000 is an extra 660 needless deaths per year.  The 2010s thankfully the murder rate lower, but was still just below 1 per 100,000, or about 300 extra deaths over the 1960s rate, and it has of course come up again to 1.22 for 2016 the last year figures are available for.

The rate went down from 2003 to about 2016, why?  My speculation would be The Criminal Justice Act of 2003 which toughened sentences for murder and rules on life imprisonment.

Punishments work, and punishments deter crime.  Today we are losing about an extra 330 people year than when we have capital punishment.

“If all 100% of them turned out to be innocent the deterrent effect of capital punishment would still save on average 30 times as many innocent lives a year”

What about the innocent?

But what about the innocent and the miscarriages of justice?  It’s a good question.  There will be irreversible miscarriages of justice.  Fact it will happen, but I put I to you, do you want to do good or do you want to feel good?

I want to do good.  I want to choose the route that results in the least deaths, not the route that makes me feel most cleansed.  We are losing approximately an extra 330 people per year than when we had capital punishment.  We will lose some innocent convicted people, but with capital punishment we would be doing good and saving more innocent lives.

The risk to innocent life’s being taken by the state is real.  But so is the risk to innocent lives being taken in murder.  Between 1735 and 1799 we executed about 7400 people.  But that was then.

It reduced to 762 between 1900 and 1964.  If all 100% of them turned out to be innocent the deterrent effect of capital punishment would still save on average 30 times as many innocent lives a year.

I ask again, do you want to feel good or actually do good?

But most won’t be innocent.  Indeed various studies in the US estimate that between 2.3 and 5% of all prisoners are innocent.  In the UK, reviews prompted by the Criminal Cases Review Commission have resulted in one pardon and three exonerations for people that were executed between 1950 and 1953 during which period we executed 68 people.

Again about 5%.  With modern DNA evidence I would expect this rate to fall.  But the deterrent effect would still be in place.

People will spend years, and even sometimes say anything to avoid capital punishment.  People will feel sympathy for them.

It doesn’t mean they deserve it.

Priti Patel is right: It’s time to bring back the death penalty.

It will save lives.  It will help abate the rising tide of knife crime we see on our streets.

It will give justice to those poor souls who had their lives untimely taken and for all its difficulties it is simply the right thing to do.

Photo by andy dolman, CC BY-SA 2.0 Link