House of Lords reform is back in the news, mostly because the Liberal Democrats are threatening yet another dog-in-the-manger hissy fit if they don't get their way.
I love democracy. Which is why I completely oppose any form of Lords reform that increases the power of the political parties. The purpose of the second chamber is exactly to prevent the House of Commons using its Parliamentary majority to railroad bad legislation onto the Statute books. We want a naturally (small C) conservative chamber that instinctively wants to prevent radical change,the implications of which may not have been properly considered. We simply don't want to jettison rights that are centuries old, such as habeas corpus, without so much as a "do you mind?" Equally, we want them to scrutinise major changes to our institutions, such as the NHS, welfare benefits and marriage, even if the proposals are deemed to be acceptable.
The old hereditary system was far from perfect. But it had one very important feature. Because it was so obviously undemocratic, it needed to behave responsibly or face annihilation. And, as a result, it did behave pretty well. It curbed Government's worst excesses, while recognising its mandate for change. An elected second chamber has no such qualms about responsibility. Its duty is only to the political parties which dominate it, not to tradition or "British values".
The Blair reforms to the House of Lords also weakened it, by kicking out a load of hereditary peers and stuffing the chamber with political patsies, mostly former (failed) MPs. As would be the case with an elected chamber, they answer to their political parties, not to us.
The tragedy is that these shabby, careerist politicians, rotten discredited people such as Baroness Uddin, will be used to support an irreversible move to a much worse system that will leave Britain totally undefended from bad, illiberal legislation that the Government of the day wants to stuff down our throats.
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Whilst a worker on the NMW pays 13% of his income on direct taxation, Tony Blair Associates paid just 3%. That means than a minimum wage worker paid 333% more tax last year that Tony Blair Associates as a proportion of income.
If you compare the tax paid by a company as a proportion of its revenues against the tax rate paid by an individual as a proportion of his/her income, it's hardly surprising you're going to end up with idiotic results.
A company isn't a person. As I heard only this evening, thanks to a great talk by David Allen Green, it's a legal fiction that's given certain person-like qualities, but only in order to enable it to enter contracts, limit the liability of its shareholders, etc. We tax companies in order to tax their shareholders. But we tax companies on their taxable profits, not their revenues. This is exactly the same way that sole traders and other unincorporated businesses are taxed.
We tax people differently. We tax them on their income, with very little scope for deduction.
So if there's a baddie in this tale, it's the tax system which beats up on the little guy. It's not Tony Blair, who will pay tax on any income he receives personally (possibly in the UK, but possibly not, depending on how he has structured his affairs).
And it's mathematically dishonest to compare the rates paid and shout that one is higher than the other, without taking account of the actual amounts of tax paid. It takes a superhuman quantity of fuckwittery to actually believe that a minimum wage worker pays 333% more tax than Tony Blair's company. It's simply not true, whichever way you look at it.
Some time ago, I had the good fortune to see Lord Digby Jones speak. There's one bit of his speech that really stuck with me - where he summarised the key difference between the public and private sector.
According to Digby, in the private sector the customer always comes first. Always, always, always. Then investors and then employees. Sure, a business needs employees to make a profit, but it's the shareholders that provide the capital to make it all possible.
Compare this to the public sector. In the public sector, the employees come first. This is why benefits are several times better than comparable terms in the private sector, and why pay has been catching up with - and has now exceeded - the private sector. Such rewards might be justifiable if they were commensurate with services offered to their customers/investors (i.e. us taxpayers) but they're not.
So, how could we hope to make the public sector a customer-focussed organisation? A real one, that is, not one of those pseudo market-based structures that Tony Blair tinkered with in the late 90s or like we have with the rail franchises...
This has been doing the rounds on Twitter over the last 24 hours or so. You've probably seen it already. In fact you've probably seen it about a thousand times already. It's likely that you're so sick of it that you're ready to punch the television at the mere mention of it. So, with that public health warning out the way, here it is again:
Blair's 1st Cabinet: 17% Oxbridge. The new Cabinet: 65% Oxbridge, 61% private school, over 90% white, middle aged men. #newsnight.
The BBC lists Blair's first cabinet here. There are 24 people, which means that Bacon is claiming that 4 of them went to Oxbridge.
Labour has always been the party of the working class.
Then Tony Blair came along, and wooed the middle classes. Somewhere along the line, the traditional, hard-working working-class Labour supporter was forgotten. Labour, in its lust for votes of any sort, focused on other segments of the population. It built up an enormous client state for itself, in effect bribing one half of the population with the other half's money.
For the working-class voter, this was an anathema. But they had nowhere else to turn to, given the implosion of Thatcherism-style conservatism. Labour betrayed them.
With the Conservative brand now detoxified and the Tories running on a manifesto predicated on hard work and strong neighbourly roots, it's time to turn away from Labour and towards the Conservatives.
Tony Blair's justification for commencing war with Iraq was a dossier of evidence which purported to show that Saddaq Hussain had the capability to deploy weapons of mass destruction against Britain within 45 minutes.
The evidence eventually became know as the dodgy dossier. It has become clear that, far from being a source of objective intelligence, it contained material that had been hand-selected and embellished to present a case for war
Blair has subsequently ditched the 45 minute claim, but the damage has been - and is still being - done.
Cool Britannia was the phrase Tony Blair's spin doctors encouraged the media to use to describe the early years of the first Labour term. The idea was that now those musty Tories had been ousted, Britain could be cool again.
Curiously, for a party which would ultimately unleash the Digital Economy Act on Britain, they never gave proper credit to the true authors of the phrase. In fact, it was first heard as the opening track to the album Gorilla by the Bonzo Dog Band.
The media soon tired of the moniker and it got fairly unceremoniously dumped by Labour shortly thereafter. Now it's seen as a bit of an embarrassment; rightly given Labour's many distinctly un-cool failures since. 2007, the tenth anniversary of Blair's ascension, gave the papers a kind to do some unkind retrospective work on what the pop stars thought of Labour's first decade. It wasn't pretty - a combination of disappointment and downright hostility.
Gorilla still sounds as fresh today as it did back then. Unlike the Labour party after 13 years. Looking at the dodgy looking Elvis impersonator wheeled out for Labour's election campaign, it's almost impossible to believe the party was ever thought of as cool. I maintain that it was always a sham, a triumph of style over content.
At Labour's October 2004 conference, Tony Blair said (emphasis added):
"Obviously there's all sorts of things that can happen. What's important to say is I want to put myself forward for the next election. If the British people - it's their decision - if they elect me, I feel I've still got lots more to do and to give, then I want to serve the third term. But I think it's sensible now to say, frankly, I would not go on and on and on to serve a fourth term."
Thanks to Gordon Brown's perpetual backstabbing and meddling, Blair stepped down in 2007. Yet Brown chickened out of holding a general election, thereby denying voters any say over the full third term of Blair they had been promised in the 2005 election.
In 1984, Margaret Thatcher negotiated a rebate on our payments to the European Union. This was largely because we have a smaller agricultural sector than the rest of Europe, so it would be unfair for us to pay so much for the Common Agricultural Policy.
And then Labour, under Tony Blair, voluntarily gave £1bn a year of it back. Which is rather typical of the cavalier attitude they have towards our tax revenues.