With the Croydon Council having recently declared bankruptcy for the third time and planning a 15 per cent hike in council tax. The TaxPayers’ Alliance have published a deep-dive by Mike Swadling of this parish looking at how the people of Croydon found themselves in this mess, and what might happen next.
“The consequences of years of failure to control borrowing and spending by the previous administration are now being borne by the local taxpayers”
“Were it not so impactful on those who can least afford it, you could almost admire the thoroughness with which the council undertook its hatchet job on the borough’s finances”
“the council was failing to deliver on basic services. The Children’s Services department was rated inadequate. £1.1 million was spent developing Surrey Street Market but resulted in fewer traders”
“To compound all of this, London Mayor Sadiq Khan is proposing to bring most of outer London into the ULEZ zone. This will charge motorists with older, higher emission vehicles £12.50 a day for driving them”
“Spending public funds on arts that are not viable commercially or via voluntary donations as the council has been doing for years, is no less of a waste of money when it comes from someone else’s funding stream”
I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that there’s something to be said for living under an existential threat. I don’t want anyone to be threatened or come to harm, but the reason for being, and the drive a common enemy gives, really does seem to improve a society. Much is made of the blitz spirit, but I’m not sure the benefit was worth the nightly visits from the Luftwaffe. But as I’ve written about before Britain used to know how to react to evil in a way we no longer do.
I recently visited Israel, staying in Jerusalem. Before I left I was told to be careful and asked if it was safe. As any resident of Croydon or London generally would know, safety can be a relative thing. What I found was a city that despite recent events, felt very safe, and a society where people could wander around engrossed in their lightly held mobile phones. Something most Londoners know better than to do.
As a history buff it’s great to be in a land when you can be snobbish about not taking much of an interesting in anything not BC, and certainly not anything less than a thousand years old. Israel uses the BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era) notations for years. Whilst I find these generally dreadful (what for heaven’s sake denotes the Common Era) I can just about forgive a Jewish state for not wanting to recognise “anno Domini nostri Jesu Christi” (AD). Beyond the history though this was a country that, to put not too fine a point on it, cut the crap.
The old city of Jerusalem demonstrates a knack for avoiding the superfluous when visiting the Temple Mount and the Western Wall (often known as the Wailing Wall). Both require men and women to pass via different entrances, both have different dress codes for men and women, and the Western Wall had different sections for men and women to ‘wail’ at. There is no choice of pronouns. If the armed IDF (Israel Defense Forces) guards and Police don’t persuade you of the seriousness of the rules the religious guardians will. Israel is consistently ranked highly as a LGBTQ country and markets itself as “The ultimate LGBTQ travel destination” but when it comes down to it some things weren’t up for debate in the City of David.
The old city of Jerusalem is a fascinating place where you can turn one corner and see ‘free Palestine’ T-shirts everywhere, turn another and be surrounded by Menorahs, walk on a bit and follow the path Christ took to his crucifixion. One of the best sites to visit in the old city is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. A site from the 4th century which covers the sites Christ was crucified and buried at. The church is shared by the Catholic Church, Armenian, Greek, Ethiopian, Syriac, and Coptic Orthodox churches. Although the primary custodians are the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic churches, the keys are held by a Muslim family as the various Christian denominations couldn’t agree who between them should be able to open the church. The current holder popped by as we toured and said hello to our guide, a friendly elderly man he checked on the work going on inside the building and wandered off, seemingly passing blessings to all he encountered.
I joked on one tour with some fellow Londoners that we probably often walked past teenagers carrying guns back at home, here of course, they were IDF soldiers. Whilst on national service, soldiers are taken around major historical sites. On approaching them you see what looks like any school trip, teenagers in a uniform, laughing and joking. It’s not until you notice that every so often one of them is carrying a machine gun, and many have side arms. This isn’t a normal school outing. But that’s not all you notice, whilst all Jewish, almost 2000 years of the diaspora since the failed revolt against Rome, and the 2,500 years since the deportation to Babylon and migration to Ethiopia (although this date is contested), has meant Israelis at least look a very mixed ethnic bunch. Aside from ethnicity the IDF volunteers will come from a variety of cultures, and whilst all speaking Hebrew (and most English) will likely have differing third languages. All this leaves aside the many Arabs that volunteer for service. But the thing you notice is the shared sense of purpose, you notice these teenagers enjoying each other’s company, whilst still acting responsibly. You notice they are as one, pulled together in adversity, and through service. Later out in a bar I happened to chat to a couple of staff about how they found national service. One barmaid who had finished her 2-year stint a few years earlier (men serve for 32 months, women for 24 months), said she felt national service was like kindergarten, “a very hard system I wanted to break free from”. But she showed no animosity, no anger, no hysterics, you all too often see from westerners of the same age. It was matter of fact; it was regardless of her relative youth, mature.
Israel has no written constitution, but like the UK has a Supreme Court who in recent years has grabbed more power, becoming a modern Kritarchy. With no constraining document the court has become in effect a new legislative body, holding power without the democratic accountability. Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government is trying to change this, allowing the parliament to overturn the court’s verdicts with a simple majority in the Knesset. I confess to knowing none of this as I visited the museums across the road from the legislature. Seeing a protest gathering I decided to wander up to ask what was going on.
Having been on a couple of protests I can say the first protester made the common mistake of protestors, of eyeing everyone not 100% on board with their views with suspicion. Whilst polite enough he clearly couldn’t accept that my asking him what the protest was for was born from ignorance not disagreement. As an aside a note to protestors, not everyone is as fascinated by your subject of protest as you are. Maybe you should consider using the protest to grow the number of those aware of the issue, not just making it a test of the depth of faith of those attending. Anyway, eventually I found someone who could explain the protest to me, and in what I was finding to be an increasingly typically Israeli way (the first protestor aside) was able to explain both sides of the issue. Whilst giving her own view she was able to show balance.
Speaking to a few more people it became clear, this was broadly a left-wing protest. A protest by those who believed in (often global) rules by an anointed class, more than they believe in democratic mandates. Whilst my sympathy wasn’t by nature with them (I don’t pretend to know enough, to hold firm views on the issue), this was a friendly protest and a protest by patriots. One group made a point of showing they were ex-IDF, another was singing all the way, most all held Israeli flags. You simply couldn’t imagine a similar level of patriotism from a centre right protest in the UK, and certainly not from a centre left protest in the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand or much of Europe.
The history of Jerusalem made it a fascinating place to visit, as was my short trip to Bethlehem in the State of Palestine. But the people of the city were fascinating in the way they acted, similar to how I remember we did, in a more straightforward time.
Misery loves company they say, so on the 30th December last year I made a point of telling a few people the day was the 40th anniversary of the first broadcast of ‘Allo ‘Allo! This knowledge having made me feel rather old, was only fair, to share. The show broadcast for 10 years, was a comedy set in German occupied France in WW2 and followed René Artois, a café owner and his escapades with the resistance, the Germans, the waitresses, shot down airmen, and his family.
Even if you don’t remember the show, you are bound to know many of its catch phrases that have made it into the lexicon. “Listen very carefully, I will say this only once” is a critical start to any sentence giving instructions, just as “It is I, LeClerc!” is a necessary statement to break cover for any master of disguise. I would advise reader discretion when saying “You stupid woman”, but get it right and it could be a “Good moaning” for you. Beyond the great catchphrases and innuendo, what ‘Allo ‘Allo! really epitomised was being the last great show before the break between the post war world where grim reality had governed people’s lives, and the post-cold war world where feelings reign supreme.
I, like many, grew up in a house with parents who had lived through rationing and where no food went to waist. Most people I knew didn’t have double glazing, few had central heating. We spent much of the winter dashing to the one room with heating, something modern Net Zero policies are reintroducing for many. Most adults knew something about how hard life could be, and even in the free world we lived under the existential threat of nuclear war and the aggression of the Soviet Union. Except for when someone close to them had died, I don’t remember any of the adults in my life thinking they should talk about their feelings; they were simply too busy getting on with life.
Around the same time as the 40th anniversary of ‘Allo ‘Allo!’s debut, stories of how Prince Harry ended up wearing a Nazi uniform were circulating. I don’t have an opinion (or very much care) why Prince Harry or anyone at the party was wearing any particular outfit, but it did make me think how, how we treat evil has changed. In the hullabaloo around Prince Harry’s costume, I couldn’t help but think of my memory of watching ‘Allo ‘Allo! with a mix of family members. Some had been evacuees, one had evacuees stay in their home, another had their young children evacuated from them, and one had literally fought Nazis. All laughed heartily at the comedic Germans on the screen. Of course, many of the actors had also served during the war.
We once knew how to deal with those we disliked, through mockery. We weren’t offended by Kenny Everett dressed as Hitler, or Dick Emery as a German Army officer. No one was triggered by Hogan’s Heroes or Monty Python Communist Quiz sketch. No safe space was needed from Comrade Dad (a much-overlooked comedy starring George Cole, set in Londongrad, the capital of the USSR-GB). These comedy shows didn’t need to protect us from images of evil. Instead, the post war world (and before with Chaplin in The Great Dictator) knew the best defence against the twin evils of National and International Socialism was mockery and ridicule.
40 years ago, the BBC could make good comedy. Comedy that knew how we could mock our own sloppiness and arrogance (the British Airmen, and the Police Officer), the Germans officialdom (Colonel Kurt von Strohm, Lieutenant Hubert Gruber, and Herr Flick of the Gestapo), whilst admiring the French (especially the waitresses, Yvette Carte-Blanche and Maria Recamier). We knew that consenting adults might be pulled together in stressful situations (or frankly any situation), and deal with a little smut and inuendo, but alas no more. It would take greater smuggling skills to get such a comedy out of the BBC these days than it took to hide The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies. If you want to be reminded of some of the best bits of the show here’s a good place to start. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtQxugFYQqs If you think you’re at risk of being offended, maybe still give it a go, and remember those that fought Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Fascist Italy, used to laugh at it.
Only 11 times in London in the last 60 years has snow fallen on Christmas day, 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. 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-made cause. Incidentally the coldest Christmas day on record since 1659 was in 2010 – so much for global warming.
What if I was to pick other dates, different dates to measure warming. The English wine market is once again growing, centred in the south. Of course, the Romans grew grapes and made wine at Hadrian’s Wall, not something we could do today without artificial heaters. Later tax records show the Britons extensively grew their own wine grapes in the 11th century. Compared to then we are colder not warmer.
The later growing took place in the Medieval Warm Period lasting from around 950 to 1250 AD. The warming during this period saw the Vikings break out of Scandinavia, conquer much of Europe and even grow barley in Greenland. The same warming in the east produced more rain, and grass for the grazing animals that Genghis Khan’s Mongolian horseman rode and fed off. This abundance allowed his descendants to conquer much of Eurasia. The Medieval Warm Period was not caused by car journeys, aircraft, coal fuelled power stations or even the Saxons use of trial by fire. The climate changes and it often has little to do with man. Compared to then we are colder not warmer.
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. The premise here is the following (with thanks to Dennis Prager):
The globe is warming.
The warming is man-made – if this isn’t because 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 acting if the impact is only two more weeks of summer and not much else.
Warmer since when? For someone to say the globe is warming, requires them to state over which period they are measuring, and justify why that period rather than some other timeframe. To believe the last two premises you must believe in the predictions of people who have told us food would run out in the 1980s, that New York City is currently underwater, that Britain would suffer a “famine” within 10 years from 2002 and that in 2009 we only had “eight years to save the planet”. I ask anyone who believes these people to get in touch with me about a bridge I have for sale.
If we do assume global warming is a threat, then what can we do about it? Let’s not start by throwing away civilizations’ manna from heaven. All the abundance you see around you, that has allowed billions of people to move from calorie insecurity to having commodity goods in our lifetimes, is fed by fuel, mostly fossil fuels. It is a manna showing no end. We have more oil reserves than all the oil we have ever used, with new technology opening even further access to fuel. 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.
Despite the supposedly dangerous level of CO2 of 1 part per 2400, life has never been better. We may have a cost of living crisis, but prior to lockdown poverty had never been lower. An estimated 3.2 billion people, or 42% 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.
Humans are exceptional. 200 years ago Global life expectancy was under 30, today life expectancy in the poorest countries is over 50, the global average is over 70. When I was at school people starved in many countries, today hunger has almost disappeared except where war or governments stop food supplies. Since the turn of the century the expanding economies of China and India have meant China has a middle class the size of the population of Europe, with India only a few years behind.
Despite expanding populations and doomsday predictions the number of people dying from extreme weather events continues to collapse. The climate has changed for millennia before mankind, during our existence and will continue to change for many more years to come without our interference. For over 30 years ‘experts’ on hefty grants have told us of impending doom from global warming, rising sea levels, agricultural failures, and a scorched planet. None of this has happened, and the planet is greening every year.
Is global warming a threat? I don’t think so, but maybe. However I have no doubt by making use of the energy buried all around us, human ingenuity will not just rise to any challenge, we will excel and overcome it.
Our recent email bulletin started with the following statement: “We have heard once again that Croydon Council is declaring de facto bankruptcy. This will no doubt lead to more taxes and worse services for the people of Croydon. Regardless of whether you believe in a small, limited government (as we do) or believe the state should provide extensive support, Croydon Council is surely a salutary tale of why regardless of the overall scale, government should focus on doing less, better. Our council has ruined our town centre, lost tens of millions on commercial and residential property speculation, paid hundreds of thousands if not millions, subsidising entertainment for the few, all whilst reducing core services for the many. We needed them, the vulnerable people who rely on the service they provide, needed them, to do fewer things better.”
In a sorry tale of déjà vu on the 22nd November Croydon Council again issued a Section 114 notice, declaring de facto bankruptcy. This is the 3rd such notice, starting in 2020, after which Croydon was granted a £120 million bailout loan by the government to balance the books.
The council is £1.6 billion in debt, with £47 million in annual debt repayment. In the councils Section 114 report they state “The conclusion is that, in order to balance its budget, Croydon needs to reduce its spending by £130m next financial year alone (before any council tax increase) which is simply untenable out of a net budget of some £300m.”
On these sums it is almost impossible to see how the council can meet its statutory requirements and save the funds necessary to balance the budget without additional help. Whatever the path forward for Croydon it must start with realistic budgeting and basic accounting skills. For some months, any Conservative councillor I have spoken with has been at pains to tell me the budget situation in Croydon is far worse than they expected. Of course, some of this is politics but when you look at the figures of budget corrections it’s hard to disagree with the basic premise.
The level of over estimation of Parking and traffic income is clearly wrong, but unforgivable is the £9.5m a year that has been taken from the ring-fenced Housing Revenue Account (HRA). The BBC report notes “The HRA is only supposed to be used for the authority’s social housing stock and it is from this account that maintenance and repair costs come for council homes. “What we’ve established is that there has been an overcharge of the HRA for several years,”. This may sound like just an accounting issue, but this represents £9.5 million less for social services, libraries, local roads, swimming pools and other services. This one mistake represents an additional £63 needed from each of the 150,100 homes in Croydon. If this were the only mistake it might be forgivable but as the above table shows this is one of many. No wonder in 2020 the council’s external auditors Grant Thornton described a council where “There has been collective corporate blindness to both the seriousness of the financial position and the urgency with which actions needed to be taken”.
I was pleased to be able to recently speak to the TaxPayers’ Alliance about some of the Council’s misspending.
The council is taking steps to improve the situation. £90 million in savings have been made and £50 million of assets have been disposed of, with a further £100 million expected to be made in sales over the next few years. The Colonnades retail park is included in this, the council purchased the Colonnades hoping to make money but will no doubt end up with a quick sale whilst still holding the debt from making the original purchase. If only they had listened to those warning of this at the time.
Taxpayer funding of cultural events and community organisations by the council has finally reduced. This hasn’t stopped the council being a sponsor of Croydon Pride yet again. A great day out, but one surely not needing funding from a bankrupt council.
More worryingly in 2023 Croydon becomes the London Borough of Culture. Funded by the Mayor of London, the “London Borough of Culture award aims to shine a light on the character and diversity of London’s boroughs and bring culture to everyone”. At the time of a cost of living crisis, unnecessary spending is already underway as the table below from the councils records shows.
Cost Centre Description
Invoice Creation Date
BOROUGH OF CULTURE
BOROUGH OF CULTURE
BOROUGH OF CULTURE
BOROUGH OF CULTURE
Fashion Meets Music Collective C.I.C.
BOROUGH OF CULTURE
BOROUGH OF CULTURE
The French Renaissance philosopher Michel de Montaigne noted “There is no more expensive thing than a free gift.” With Croydon Councils record of misallocating funds, and run away spending, Croydon’s, London’s, and the nations taxpayers who are bailing out the council have plenty of reason to worry.
Croydon Mayor, Jason Perry has noted “Even with Government support, the coming years will be incredibly financially challenging for Croydon Council. We must balance our books and become a much smaller organisation.” Maybe a good way to start would be for him to politely decline to waste more taxpayers cash on the London Borough of Culture award.
Many of us are used to buying and selling goods on eBay and similar sites. You will have bid, suggested, or offered a price, you will have agreed the price and exchanged the goods. As the buyer, would you have wanted the council to come in and tell you that price is wrong, and you have to pay more? As the seller would you want the council to have increased the price and have maybe lost you the sale?
I originally wrote a version of this article in 2018 about my local councils plan to make Croydon “a living wage borough, not just a living wage council”. The council was already paying the living wage for their own staff and expecting it of its contractors. Predictably the council went de facto bankrupt with the issuing of now three Section 114 notices.
The living wage is a voluntary minimum hourly rate for those 18 and older set by the Living Wage Foundation. In London, the rate is £11.95 per hour and in the rest of the UK it is set at £10.90. This compares to the legal minimum wage of £9.50 per hour for those over 22.
Now on the face of it what’s wrong with paying people more, and who doesn’t want more pay? The problem comes when some outside force, say a branch of government, decides the best rate of pay for an employer to pay. If an employer can only make £10 an hour of value from someone, but must pay above this, they simply won’t employ them. We know if governments increase the price of something it sells less, and we get less of it in the market. Tax on cigarettes has been part of the reason for the collapse in the number of people smoking. We tax energy to reduce its use to theoretically help the environment. It follows on that increasing the price of work will lead to less work.
What jobs are there going to be less of? It’s quite common for well-educated, middle-class children to use a period of unpaid internship as a means of getting into a profession. This is fine if you can afford periods of unemployment and are suited to the types of roles offering internships. If, however, you want to earn some money but don’t have the skills to generate value above the living wage, then the rungs of opportunity have been removed from your ladder. These aren’t jobs or wages that will sustain families but are jobs that give you opportunity to build and grow your skills. In a cost-of-living crisis these might simply be jobs that allow you to heat your home or keep that roof above your head.
Rational people will take jobs that earn them the most money consummate to their skills and desire to select specific types of roles. Increasing your skills and taking risks improves your work opportunities. If, for whatever reason, you leave education with relatively few qualifications, you will likely need what the Americans call ‘burger flipping’ jobs, to build up your experience to a point where you can command ten, twenty, or more pounds an hour. With rampant inflation hurting those often-older people on fixed incomes, you might need these jobs to keep your financial head above water. The government and many well-meaning councils, businesses, and charities are interfering in the rational choice and freedom of someone to earn the most, and cope as best they can.
An appearance on the LibertariDan Live show this week got me thinking whether it’s the inefficiency of lockdown, the pointlessness of masks, money printing leading to inflation, windmills making us less energy secure or government overspending making us all poorer, right now libertarians have a lot of reasons to say ‘I told you so’.
Now normally the level of smugness associated with saying ‘I told you so’ is reserved for Remoaners who misunderstand the reasons people wanted to leave the EU, and is best avoided. But right now, in one particular area, I really feel we need to point it out.
At the fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama famously suggested we were witnessing The End of History. If that were ever in any way true, The End of History ended when Russian tanks rolled into the Ukraine. Kiev arguably the father of Russia, first became part of the Russia Empire in 1667, a bookend to a 400 year fight to unite the Rus following their forced separation at the hands of the Mongol horde. Those 400 years had changed Ukraine and created a closely related but separate nation.
Putin’s invasion of Russia was the act of a dictator. Democracies tend not to (if ever) go to war with each other. Disputes about sovereignty no matter how fraught the circumstances are resolved peacefully. Norway split from Sweden, the Czech Republic and Slovakia split, the U.K. left the EU all peacefully. Whilst the separation of what is now the Republic of Ireland from the U.K. can hardly be called peaceful, it was relatively so, compared to say the breakup of Yugoslavia or the wars fought since the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Being a liberal democracy is a good thing. Being a dictatorship of whatever political bent is a bad thing. Living in a dictatorship is likely to limit your life choices, you economic prosperity and your life expectancy. For all its ills we should be proud of the system of Government we have, and we should be able to shout about how much better it is to the system of government in say Russia.
Except of course those of you who have made it this far it the article are thinking… but we’ve not in almost anyway been a liberal democracy for the past 2 years. Yes, I agree, and this is why we have to say ‘I told you so’.
With the banning of RT (formally Russia Today) across much of the west, the cancelling of Tchaikovsky in Cardiff and the banning sports stars, the west can’t hold itself as a paragon of virtue against the dictatorship in Russia. We are playing into the hands of Putin’s propagandists. Those of us who believe in liberty should be shouting from the rooftop, ‘I told you so’. I told you when you cancel those you disagree with, you provide no defence against Russian propaganda. When you cancel RT, you give them an excuse to cancel the (however imperfect) western media. When you don’t provide a platform for even the most unappealing voice in your society, you give the dictators an excuse to dismiss you. When you lock up your citizens for peaceful protest, they can unashamedly lock up theirs. When you are not even aspiring to be a shining city on a hill, you arguably give dictators the moral cover to invade their neighbours.
Would cancelling cancel culture have stopped Putin invading the Ukraine, probably not, but would it have been harder to invade had the west upheld its principles and its economies these past 2 years? Yes!
Rather than cancelling RT why not pillory it in the same we did Ali Hassan Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti aka Chemical Ali (who ultimately received a death sentence for genocide and was hung). The BNP fell when their leader appeared on Question Time and people could see them for what they are. As a child it felt like every other comedy programme was someone mocking the Nazis, good. Today merely mentioning them, even to criticise, is by some be considered beyond the pale.
With the quick feedback loops of a war, ‘I told you so’, becomes a powerful argument as the protagonists supressed intellectual freedoms in the same way as the woke mob here. History didn’t end with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world isn’t full of just good people, many are bad, and only with a united stand for freedom will our side, the good guys, win.
Back in March I spent a week in Florida, a trip to see among other things, the USA Men’s Soccer team play Panama (they won 5-1). Why would I (a Brit) do that, you might ask. Well apart from the sunshine, the lack of lockdown with commitment to freedom in Florida, and the opportunity to find myself drinking cocktails on Daytona beach, a mate had a spare ticket.
As anyone who has ever visited the United States will understand, the impression I came away with was one of unabashedly patriotism. Which leads to two thoughts, why aren’t we left with that impression from Hollywood and our media, and how do we get some of that in the UK or even just England?
‘Soccer’ as our cousins in the US insist on calling our noble game has been growing rapidly in the US in recent years. Their topflight football ‘Major League Soccer’ (MLS) has expanded from 20 teams to 29 teams since 2016. After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia the national side has now qualified for Qatar 2022, with a team of an average age of 24 who should be at their peak for the 2026 World Cup jointly hosted by the USA, Mexico and Canada.
Football is best played in a stadium where supporters are close to the pitch, fans are singing, and they have roofs over much of the stands to keep the noise in. The Exploria stadiumin Orlando ticked the boxes for the physical requirements, and the US fans sure brought the noise. Soccer support in the US runs somewhat as a counterculture, for people who fall outside the mainstream. It has a base both in the universities of the well-travelled middle class, and in recent immigrants who bring their soccer traditions to the US.
Match day means a few drinks to warm up for the game. Fan zones nearer the ground and general enterprising zones of pubs further away. The Stars and Stripes were ubiquitous but then they often are in the US. The crowd on route was a mix of accents, races, regions, all routing for one thing, the USA.
It’s fair to say many people on route did wonder who these people were in sports kits. Soccer for all its progress is still a minority sport in the US. But once people knew that the USA, their team, their nation, was playing at frankly anything, they could not have been happier to see us, even to see the English bloke tagging along.
Back to my two questions. These Americans no matter where they were born were proud to be American, ‘why aren’t we left with that impression from Hollywood and our media’?
The media, political, ‘expert’ class who frankly blight our lives too much don’t get it. To quote C J Cregg from the TV show The West Wing, “Being considered an ‘average American’ is something Americans find to be positive and comforting”. I think this is equally true if most Brits, all too often we’re just not meant to show it.
Maybe it’s that bad news sells, but surely somewhere we should see that Americans love America, they couldn’t be happier to celebrate their nation, which in many cases is their new nation. It’s common among US soccer fans to have their state name and the number it joined the union embraced in the back of their replica shirts. This leads to little more than some gentle ribbing and largely becomes a great conversation starter. You would struggle to imagine that in the UK.
Which makes me wonder ‘how do we get some of that in the UK. or even just England?’ There have been various initiatives to get the Union Jack n government buildings. Although it often feels they are swapped out as quickly as possible. It’s never been the case that local councils, government agencies, schools and other state institutions routinely fly the flag or flags.
The 1st century BC, Hillel the Elder said “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”. The elites might not be, but Main Street USA is certainly for the USA. For societies to function we don’t need high taxes or welfare systems, but humans do need to feel part of a community at multiple levels. For us to respect each other’s rights to say things we disagree with, the ‘man on the Clapham Omnibus’ needs to feel the other person is stuck on the same bus with them.
Here in the UK, we could stand up that bit more for the country, for our nation within the UK and for the country as a whole. For all the problems with our history we should remember all the good our nation has done, we should remember we are part of a 54-nation commonwealth. We are a democracy and broadly, although under constant attack, we have free speech. We should also remember we have no hope of living in a harmonious society, if we refuse to believe in the nation, we live in.
It was great to see unabashed patriotism in the US. A belief in their state, their team, their country. I don’t for one moment think waving a flag, or all the flags of the UK will bring everyone together and solve all of society’s ills, but in a world where more people are from more places, we need to find ways to build communities. Unashamedly getting behind our flag, and our nation, isn’t a bad place to start.
One of the many things that surprised me during the Brexit campaign was the extent to which old political divisions were rearranged and formed into new constitutional and cultural groupings. I had always enjoyed listening to Claire, now Baroness Fox on the Moral Maze, and in various TV appearances, but I had never expected to find myself agreeing with her as much as I have over the last 6 years.
Aside from being sound on Brexit, Claire Fox is the director of the Academy of Ideas. Alastair Donald, the Associate Director of the Academy spoke at our first My Tuppenceworth event about the risks to freedom from identity politics, and also appeared on our Podcast. The Academy “has been committed to organising free and open public debates for over 20 years”, and one of these debates is the Battle of Ideas.
The Battle of Ideas or #BattleFest as it’s known on social media holds events around Europe and the UK with major events in Buxton and London. I attended the Sunday of the London event in mid-October, and frankly can’t wait to go back.
The format of the day was set around panels of 4-6 people discussing topics such as ‘Age of ‘ISMS’: What happened to ideology?’, ‘Climate Emergency: Catastrophe or Catastrophising?’ and ‘How do we solve the housing crisis?’, with a scattering of lectures thrown in. Up to 10 panels are run concurrently and for the most popular sessions you need to arrive early. In addition around the main conference hall were a series of stalls from among others, the Free Speech Union, and the Reform Party.
I picked my choices for sessions to attend based on a mixture of the topic and those on the panels, taking advantage of the opportunity to see Rod Liddle, Shaun Bailey, and Christopher Snowdon. The day also afforded the opportunity to catch-up with a few people I know. The panel discussions felt fairly informal, with a mix of views across the panellists. Even where they differed the conversations were polite and mostly very friendly. Audience participation was a major part of the day with plenty of time for people to ask questions. As someone who has run Q&As from a large crowd it was a fascination for me to see the mastery with which the panel chair’s managed to generally keep questions as questions, rather than speeches, and move the discussion along.
The crowds were largely what regular readers of this website might call sound, and of a cultural libertarian bent, although a range of views were present. Given the views of most attendees a special congratulations need to go to the panellists who, so rarely for today, came willing to speak to a crowd who weren’t on side.
My personal favourite session was on housing, where frankly I haven’t made up my mind on how we meet the desires of local communities to keep their character, verses how we build the new houses we need. Hearing from an architect on the panel how building well designed attractive houses generally overcomes local planning objections was especially interesting and rang true in my local area. In the suburban area I live, the objections to new houses are far lower than the objections to yet more flats.
An all-round great event with lots you can agree with, some things to challenge you, and lots to make you think. Checkout their website for upcoming events. I look forward to attending both days in London next year.
Photo by The original uploader was Blakwolf at Italian Wikipedia. – Transferred from it.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY 2.5
First published in February Mike Swadling writes about the Laffer Curve. It felt for a short while under Liz Trust and Kwasi Kwarteng as if the Conservatives had rediscovered the problem with high taxes, but alas no more. Once again, we are back in the situation described by Winston Churchill as “I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”
Johnny Leavesley the former Conservative Party treasurer party donor, in an article in the Telegraph asked of the Government “Have they never heard of the Laffer Curve?”. You have to wonder. Surely a Conservative government, a Conservative government would have heard of the Laffer Curve, but alas it appears not. This is a government that has increased corporation tax and is increasing National Insurance rates. Do they really believe this will raise more money?
Whilst it is unlikely anyone reading Free Speech is unaware of the Laffer Curve it is maybe worth just noting what it is in case anyone from the government is reading. Named after Arthur Laffer, the Laffer Curve illustrates the relationship between the rate of taxation and the resulting government revenue. The curve shows that at a 0% tax rate no income is raised, similarly at a 100% tax rate no income is raised, as no one would work to pay all the earning to government. Somewhere in between is a tax rate that maximises revenue for government.
Separate to a moral case for keeping more of your own income, even if you believe in a high spending government, higher tax rates make no sense. People often assume the higher the tax rate, the higher the tax take but this is not the case. As a little thought experiment do you believe more income would be raised with an 80% tax rate or 20% tax rate? If you think of your own circumstances, it’s likely that at a 80% tax rate it would not be worth your while working in your current role. It is quite possible you would look for cash in hand work and you certainly wouldn’t be looking to take on more hours in a role taxing you at 80%. Whereas at a 20% tax rate is possibly less than you pay today. You might be tempted to work more hours or take on a more stressful but rewarding role knowing you get to keep more of your money.
My own experience with the Laffer Curve came some years ago working with a team of engineers who were all approaching a new higher tax bracket. Much of our work involved weekend overtime and everyone’s hand would shoot up at first opportunity to work a lucrative Saturday. Then suddenly our incomes that year had breached the threshold, we noticed we were no longer taking home the lion share of our income for the weekend, instead it was split fairly evenly with government. Strangely none of us could remember the Minister or the Senior Civil Servant coming in to help us with our work at the weekend, but somehow, they were always there to help us with the income for it. From that point onwards finding someone to cover a weekend became increasingly difficult, and ‘bribery’ in the form of overtime no longer automatically worked.
The great mistake people often make is to forget that working itself is a cost, the cost is your free time, your energy, time not spent with your family or friends. This all has to be weighed up against the rewards you receive for working. This is equally true for businesses, setting up a business requires an investment of money and energy. Many people set up businesses in areas they’d already worked and where they could already draw decent income. When you take on the risk and extra effort of running your own business you need to see the extra reward. What feels like a small increase in corporation tax maybe the difference from someone starting their own enterprise, employing people, and creating value or staying in a role they have today and letting somebody else hold the risk.
Nevertheless, the government seems committed to the idea that raising tax rates will raise the revenue needed so recover from the economic armageddon of lockdown. Prior to the pandemic the UK government had been spending just over 39% of GDP, it shoots up to over 52% last year and is likely to remain over 40% for some years to come. What does the government know that we don’t, and why do they think increased tax rates will somehow help?
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.
The 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%. Yet the total tax take has never been lower than 32.5% of GDP and never exceeded 37.5% of GDP.
Higher tax rates don’t increase tax revenue, something this government has clearly never heard of.