Blog Review 992


Yet another lesson, as if one were needed, in why these political attempts to subsidise one or another industry so often fail expensively.

Not that this is a new problem of course.

How and why such programmes are initiated.

This very expensive government programme is one that we don't want to succeed in any manner at all.

Required reading for all those who would like to know why and how economic growth occurs.

An intruiging point. Can the BNP now be sued for racial discrimination, absurd as that might be?

And finally, conspiracy theorising at its best.



UKIP - A party on the rise?


ukipA lot has been written over the rise of the BNP due to their success at the European elections last week. There have also been discussions surrounding Labour's apparent demise and falling support. All the while the party that pushed Labour into 3rd place seems to have slipped under everyone's radar. UKIP supporters are crowing about how successful they were, pushing Labour into third and increasing the number of their MEPs by 1. But they were another group that benefitted from the disappearance of the Labour Party's core voters.

Overall UKIP's total number of votes fell by 8.6% but then this is probably reflective of a falling turnout.  If you examine their vote across the regions it varies from a drop of 44.9% in the East Midlands to a 19.5% gain in the West Midlands (where they gained the extra MEP).  The party only managed to gain supporters in 5 regions and the majority of those gains were below 6%. Their losses were heavier, three of them being above 18%. It is difficult to see where they can improve on the numbers who are voting for them, despite this election proving to be a fillip for them. In these politically apathetic times  they are facing stiff competition from smaller/newer parties that are also anti-federalist. It is unlikely that we will see any increase on the 6% of the electorate who voted for them in the 2004 European election. Indeed if they deemed that a success one only has to look at the next election for the UK parliament where they only polled 2.2% of the votes, or 22% of the actual total number of voters from 12 months previously.

While many supporters of UKIP will see last week as a success the figures point to a party that has possibly reached it's zenith. But there still remains a hope for them, the continuing ignorance of the populace by the professional politicians of the day. Despite the citizens of the EU delivering a firm 'no' to the federalist leaning politicians they continue to call for more integration, as seen by yesterday's announcements by Peter Mandleson. UKIP's continued success depends on this blinkered idiocy to continue.

The value of education


educationpic1From deep in the cavern of bad policy ideas, the National Union of Students (NUS) have pulled out a cracker: former students should pay up to 2.5 per cent of their salary for 20 years after graduating to fund higher education. The tax would be levied depending on earnings.

The NUS’ policy is essentially a tax upon success. Those students who have worked and sacrificed to get into a top university, who while at university studied a demanding subject and focused more on study than the pub, who came out with the grades and skills to get a decent job that demands yet more work and sacrifice, will be paying for the education of the of lazy students ‘studying’ in third-rate universities. This is not meritocracy, quite the opposite in fact.

The impact of this tax would certainly send the top students abroad to study and or work. Many of the best and the brightest would prefer to pay an upfront payment for their education abroad instead of having their salary jacked by the government for twenty years; else they will take the benefits of a British education, only to work abroad, no doubt avoiding repayments entirely.

Only when education is truly liberalized will we see a meritocratic system emerge. Of course, those young people with no financial means who fail to qualify for a bursary will indeed have to borrow in order to be educated and the better the education the more the cost. But crucially it will then be their decision as to whether or not the education is worth that level of investment. This would be a meritocracy. If the students do not consider the education to be worth getting into debt over, they can and will choose to spend their productive energy in another direction.

Blog Review 991


Yes, governments really are more expensive at doing just about everything for there's a deadweight cost to the taxation with which they do things.

How the internet has dispensed with the gatekeepers and thus reversed the burden of proof.

Making an error does not mean that the erree should never do anything again.

Would the mooted change in the electoral system really lead to this?

Fake charities spouting fake statistics: couldn't we change that part of the political system instead?

This is bizarre even for Polly Toynbee.

And finally, pilots do have a sense of humour, don't they?

(Netsmith would like to apologise for the somewhat random numbering of the blog review over the past few days. Some light brain spasm to blame, no doubt.)

The database state


dataConnectivity is a company which has just launched a new mobile phone directory service. They claim to have 16m of mobile phone numbers in their database. They won't give them out to you, but you call 118800 or go onto their website and say who you want to call, and for £1 they will send that person a text asking if they'll take your call.

The interesting question is where Connectivity laid its hands on 16m of our numbers. It's coy, but the answer is market research companies, online businesses that we buy things from, and brokers who sell lists of numbers.

Actually, I'll find it quite useful to be able to look up people's mobile numbers. But grasping the obvious benefits is how we lose our liberties. Most people want more CCTV, for example, because they think it prevents crime. But when you have millions of them tracking your every move, what it starts to prevent is free movement. And the worrying thing about this 118800 initiative is just how easily new databases of our information can be compiled. Click a mouse, text a friend, use your credit cards, sign up for a storecard, pay your car tax or buy a TV licence, walk in the street under the gaze of CCTV, apply for social benefits, forget to tick the box on that says 'we'd like to share your information with...' and your ID cat is out of the bag, floating around between – well, who knows who?

That's why the proposed National Identity Register is so dangerous. And the NHS patient records system too. Tens of millions of our records, all accessible to whichever of 400,000 civil servants happens to have the right security code. The late lamented Jacqui Smith wanted to keep a note of all our email and phone chats, while the lamentable Jack Straw wanted to share all our information between government departments. They both had to publicly backtrack. But I'm under no illusion that these things are going to happen, or are happening, anyway.

Germany’s European election results: A threat to UK new nuclear-build?


nuclearIn the UK, Labour’s disastrous European Election results, allied to a good performance by UKIP, dominated headlines domestically.

But for those presiding over UK energy policy, the results in Germany were seriously disconcerting.

The combined vote of the CDU and the Bavarian-based CSU was just below 38%. Moreover, the FDP secured a 10% share so that this trio fell just short of 50%. The main left-wing party, the SPD, polled less than 21%.

Germany is currently governed by a Grand Coalition led by Federal Chancellor, Angela Merkel, whose own standing remains impressive. Hence, she is well-placed to secure an overall majority – in league with the CSU and the FDP – in September’s general election.

A CDU-led government, especially with a decent majority, may well decide to scrap Germany’s nuclear phase-out policy that was controversially enacted in 2001.

Germany’s top two energy companies, E.On and RWE, strongly support such a marked policy shift. Undoubtedly, it would materially boost their cash flows: most of their nuclear stations could continue generating power - at low marginal cost - for many years.

E.On and RWE may also undertake upgrades to their existing nuclear plants. And, in time, new nuclear-build may become feasible in Germany, which would require massive investment by both E.On and RWE.

Along with France’s EdF, where net debt reduction is now a priority, E.On and RWE are key to new nuclear-build in the UK. However, a major change in the German energy landscape may cause their investment focus to become more domestically-orientated.

In any event, with nearly £40 billion of net debt, E.On’s own investment plans are being cut back.

Worrying times then for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) – a reversal of Germany’s nuclear phase-out policy would certainly not be helpful for the prospects of new nuclear-build in the UK.

Battling the BNP


Yesterday dozens of protesters from the group ‘Unite Against Fascism’ swarmed on Nick Griffin’s European Election victory speech outside the House of Lords. They threw eggs, hit him and his supporters with placards and umbrellas and kicked his car as he drove away. As a result of the protest two people were taken to hospital.

Clearly there should be no place for the likes of the BNP and Nick Griffin in British politics – he’s a racist and a holocaust deniers. But they are now in a democratically elected public office and we cannot ‘blame’ or punish Nick Griffin for being democratically elected.

‘Unite Against Fascism’ are not a credible force to combat extremism in Britain. They seem to undermine themselves. The protest organiser is quoted as saying ‘I support freedom of speech but not for fascists’. Something doesn’t quite add up. You cannot support freedom of speech only when it suits you, and by campaigning to stump the free speech of the BNP, ‘Unite Against Fascism’ are becoming slightly fascist themselves.

If we are really to stop this rise in fascism we need to look at the root causes of its growth. People are voting for the BNP because they feel disenfranchised by the major political parties. They feel the BNP will be more responsive to their individual needs.

There are two ways to start to reverse the growth of the BNP. Firstly, we need to bring people like Griffin into the open. Let him give news interviews in the mainstream media. This way people will see what he a fool he is with his claims that he can ‘just see if somebody is British’. We also need a reform of Westminster that emphasises MPs and parties working for the people rather than themselves, a point the BNP played on with their focus on local tensions.

Blog Review 878


Just how much money is it that we owe given Gordon's financial inventiveness?

Quite why there was all that excitement over Gordon's possible resignation is difficult to understand. There's almost no way of forcing him to.

It just isn't true that train travel is necessarily less carbon emittive than car travel.

Are there limits to the amount of wealth that we can create?

Hey, maybe it's all over! Paul Krugman seems to think so.

A very weird idea of how to make the political system work better. Weird, but perhaps sufficiently so to actually work.

And finally, what we've escaped with the sexual revolution.