Tuesday, December 15, 2009

We are making cars more efficient, but what about houses?

I have been chugging round in my Smart Diesel for a few days now.

My previous carriage of choice was twice as long and had an engine five times as big.

It is definitely not as luxurious as my petrol Mercedes was, but in all other ways it is a lot less of a compromise than I was expecting.

For one thing it is amazingly comfortable on long trips - just been to London and back - and I found the seats fine. Being a turbo diesel means it has a lot more urge than Karen's Daihatsu on the motorway - and it is quiet.

The biggest incentive was at the pumps. A return trip in the Mercedes was never less than £90 in fuel and about another £100 in maintenance and wear and tear. The trip in the Smart cost £30, about half the cost of going on the train.

I am not a convert to the global warming theory and remain a sceptic about the evidence that mans activity is causing the planet to warm up.

But in many ways whether there really is global warming or not is irrelevant; the balance of probability says we should try and be more fuel efficient. If the climate scientists are right then it will help prevent warming, and if they are wrong it will preserve our natural resources for future generations. This is a win-win.

If each of us tries to do something less harmful then there is no obvious downside and there could be a benefit for future generations.

The main plus of the public concern about the environment so far is a change in perceptions, turning up for an important business meeting in a small car like a Smart, or a Fiat 500 would until very recently have been seen as at best eccentric, and at worst as a career-damaging move whereas now it is seen as reflecting a responsible attitude.

What a pity that the realism in the business community that means my Smart is now seen as a perfectly acceptable form of transport for a senior executive has not spread to the world of Government Planning Inspectors and English Heritage.

Carbon dioxide emissions from the housing sector account for 27 per cent of the UK's carbon footprint while passenger cars account for only about 12%. There are 375,000 listed buildings in the UK of which 92% are the least important Grade 2 type, all of which are stuck in a 100 year old time warp and excluded from much new building material technology.

Take for example our home in Torquay. It is Grade 2 listed and under current legislation we cannot replace wooden sash windows and doors with more thermally efficient modern replicas even if they are indistinguishable to look at from the originals. We could not take advantage of the South facing aspect of the house to fit solar panels nor could we have a wind generator on the roof even though they would be invisible from the road. In fact after already fitting a condensing boiler and a lot of loft insulation there is little we can do to improve our homes thermal rating.

This is a classic case of a lack of 'joined up' thinking in Government, where one department sets rules and laws that directly conflict with another. On the one hand we want more efficient homes yet we actively prevent homeowners from making desirable improvements to bring their houses up to date, thermally speaking.

I agree that classic buildings need protecting from inappropriate modernisation but we should modify the listed buildings legislation to encourage thermal and efficiency improvements when new technology allows it to blend in, or when it is hidden.

The Georgians, Victorians and Edwardians made great buildings by embracing new building materials and technologies. What would they have made of our modern obsession with keeping thousands of buildings inefficient and wasteful - all in the name of purity?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Just how much is the Government Borrowing?

The sheer scale of National borrowing it so utterly enormous it is hard to comprehend.

Understanding clearly the enormous difference between a billion here and a trillion there is almost impossible to do; so I thought I would borrow an excellent illustration from an American site (http://www.dailycognition.com/) which tries to show just how much space this kind of money would take up if it was piled up in cash.

These illustrations are based on tightly packed brand new $100 bills, and of course the biggest note we have is only £50 so at current exchange rates the amount stacked if it was in in sterling amounts the same would look half as big again.

Here is what $100,000,000 (£60m) looks like:

Packed tight in bundles it would fit on a single pallet. Cliff Richard is worth about £60m. It is about enough to build half the Kingskerswell bypass, buy two Eurofighter jets, pick up a second-hand Boeing 747 or completely rebuild a city centre shopping mall.

Torbay council spend this much annually on running all the schools in Torbay.

Here is what $1bn (£600m) looks like:

It's half a lorry full of money. Very few individuals have this much worth: Richard Branson, maybe Sir Paul McCartney.

For £600m you could buy the famous Gerkhin building in the City of London, or build a second Wembley Stadium.

Torbay Council spends this much over the four years of it's electoral cycle. It is what the Government will be paying out every week on interest on the national debt next year and beyond.

Here is what $1 trillion (£600bn) would look like:

The man in the red shirt is shown for scale again, but you can hardly see him down in the bottom left-hand corner, the pallets are stacked two high and yet still the picture can hardly fit on my blog. This amount is - roughly - the same as the current national debt figure of £730,000,000,000 shown on my debt counter above.

According to projections in the Budget, public sector net debt, the accumulated stock of outstanding Government borrowing, will reach £1.37 trillion in 2013/14. This is roughly $2 trillion, in other words this picture shows just half the money that Britian will eventually owe under this Governments plans.

At the moment the Government is quoting an annual overspend of 12.5% of national product. What that means is that the Government, who spend about half the national output, is borrowing about a quarter of the money it is spending every year. Alistair Darling has said he wants to 'half the deficit' by 2014 - which some lazy reporters state as 'halving the debt' but what that means is that the annual amount by which the government is short will fall from 25% to about 12%; the debt will pile up but half as fast as it is at the moment.

This is like a loss-making business CEO saying 'in five years I will halve our losses' - no chief executive would be given that long by his banks, and neither will Britain PLC.

When Labour came to office the country owed £350bn, exactly one quarter of the debt we will end up with when they leave. The taxpayer will have to service this enormous debt pile and then, sooner or later, make an effort to pay it down. Even then we will probably have higher taxes and borrowing costs and a weaker currency than any other European country for decades ahead. And the depressing thing is that even now the Government feel no need to accept that this is a problem, in today's pre-budget report the Chancellor came up with hardly any cuts and virtually no new tax-raising measures; he fools no-one.

Consumer and business confidence will not return for as long as the prospect of either economic collapse, runaway inflation or skyrocketing taxes and interest rates hangs over our heads; and that threat won't go away until this massive debt burden is faced up to.

Above all enormous national debts make this country weak, the foreign investors -Chinese, Indian and Arab Governments, overseas bankers and Sovereign Funds who have lent the money will be calling the shots here for years to come.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Could May 2010 be Feb 74?

Why is a hung Parliament a threat to be afraid of ?

The political pages have been awash with stories concerning the possibility that the General Election could result in a hung parliament, this is when no single party has a majority in the House of Commons.

This last happened in 1974. During the oil crisis endless political strikes by militant miners and dockers threatened to bring our democracy down. Ted Heath called an emergency election to establish 'who governs Britain'. The totally unexpected answer was: 'not you, mate'. Labour were returned to power as the largest single party though with a minority in the House, eventually going into a disasterous formal coalition with the Liberals in 1976.

The press have been full of speculation about a similar outcome when the election is held next year. The reason is a recent fall-off in the very large Conservative leads in the polls - from 17% to 10% or less in recent reports. Converting national vote shares into actual seat shares is very difficult in these days of target seats and the like but some pepsologists have suggested that the Tories need more than a 10% lead in the national polls to be sure of an overall majority, hence the speculation about NOC (No Overall Control).

The Liberal Democrats and the Nationalists in Scotland and Wales are dreaming of the goodies they will might extract if they hold the balance of power; but they are the only ones.

Everyone else is terrified.

No Overall Control is a turn of phrase that for most foreign exchange dealers and Gilt salespeople gives them nightmares even when times are good. When a Government like ours needs to borrow trillions from foreigners just to stay afloat the letters NOC equal the kiss of death.

In 2009 the Government has spent nearly 30% more than it has raised in tax, the difference this year - £180bn - has been covered by the sale of Government bonds (gilts) to investors. However all year the Bank of England has been printing new money (Quantative Easing) which it has spent buying up existing gilts, forcing investors to buy new ones from the Treasury.

QE is now ending and next years budget deficit will have to be financed without it. The funding crisis that a massive increase in borrowing like ours might have been expected to cause has simply been delayed by QE until next year.

If you add in the uncertainty of a possible hung parliament a currency and funding crisis early next year looks a real possibility. What this would mean is a loss of confidence from international investors needing drastic interest rate rises to lure them back, perhaps credit and currency exchange controls to stop British residents taking their wealth overseas and ultimately the possibility of our Government, like Russia a few years ago, not having enough money to pay it's own wages bill.

International investors will only lend money to a state that has a clear plan to repay its debts quickly. Because of the political chaos in 1976 we were unable to demonstrate this and the country instead had to turn to the IMF for emergency aid.

That fate looks unlikely to me, I don't agree with the pepsologists and I think a 10% Conservative lead will give us a workable commons majority and the mandate to make the changes that will maintain investor confidence.

I also think there is a paradox to hung parliaments: the possibility of having one makes actually ending up with one less likely.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dinner with David Trimble.

We had David (Lord) Trimble down in Devon this weekend for a fund raising dinner for my election campaign.

Held at the Orestone Manor Hotel, our palates were stimulated with a gourmet dinner of ribeye steak with Merlot sauce or fillet of guilt head bream, while our intellects were stimulated by a Nobel Peace Prize winning politician.

I have hosted or arranged many scores of these events both here in Torbay and formerly as the Chairman of Windsor conservatives.

Usually the guests are all dedicated political activists and the speech is often simply a tub-thumping call to arms.

To be fair pitching the speech at the right level is difficult at the best of times. Most experienced politicians can 'read' the audience mood, and give them what they want (but not all, - I remember in particular an excruciating 'We are on the verge of a great victory' monologue from Jeffrey Archer at the Windsor Guildhall in 2001 shortly before we went down to our second worst election result in history and he went off to prison.)

What made Friday evening so very different was that it was not a members event, so many of the guests were not necessarily Conservative voters. Although he now takes the Conservative Whip in the Lords David Trimble was there to talk about his time as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and his negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement which paved the way for the lasting peace enjoyed by the province ever since, and it was not a party political speech at all.

The early foundation of these talks was laid while John Major was PM and the deal was done with Blair so uniquely for one of our dinners Trimble could tell us about the workings of both a Conservative and Labour administration.

There were fascinating behind-the-scenes anecdotes about discreet direct talks with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinnes which were in places both amusing and revealing.

What came across the most to me about him is the incredible courage and determination he showed in leading his very reluctant Unionist peers from supporting confrontation and violence to instead supporting the talks that led to peace.

Weak politicians merely parrot the prejudices of their electors, strong politicians show us that there is a better place; but it requires a truly great politician to actually lead you there.

Like Churchills Tories in 1945, he paid a high political price for his historic achievement, the UUP were routed by the DUP and in the 2005 election David Trimble lost his seat.

He has not stopped working to embed peace in the Province. He believes that the next phase of normality in Northern Ireland politics will come when the political choice is framed the same there as it is in Scotland, Wales and England.

He is optimistic that the merger deal recently announced between the UUP and the Conservatives in Northern Ireland will for the first time enable voters there to focus on the same question as the rest of the British Isles at the General Election namely: do they want Gordon Brown or David Cameron for PM?

If Northern Irish voters feel able to vote freely - on issues like lower tax, better education and investment in our hospitals - and not on religion - it will be the very best evidence possible that normal life has returned for good.

I am very grateful to him for coming down to see us, it was a brilliant and very illuminating evening and a great success.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Summing up Labour in a single phrase.

"The state would be the ultimate authority in allocating resources to the population" - this is a direct quote from my opposite number David Pedrick Friend in todays local paper. He claims this is what his Labour Party stands for.

It says in elegant simplicity what Labour represent, the view that 'the population' are to be the passive recipients of resources from the all-powerful state; that we are all here as mere cogs in the mighty state machine.

It's everything I went into politics to oppose.

In my view the state should be there to serve it's citizens, not the other way round as envisaged by Mr Pedrick Friend.

Gordon Brown went to elaborate lengths yesterday via the Queens Speech to create a political divide, to draw the battle lines for the next election with a plethora of meaningless bills.

But his local representative has summed it up far more elegantly, and truthfully.

He also said "Labour's 1945 government signed a contract with the British people that for the first time in British history the era of the rich man in his castle and poor man at his gate would end."

But under this Labour Government the gap between rich and poor has grown, the number of jobless has risen, the opportunities for young people fallen, and the burden of debt tripled.

Socialism serves only to impoverish everyone.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The War of

This is a snippet from a Labour Party leaflet doing the rounds in a by election constituency recently. Politics doesn't get much less subtle than this.

The whole question of fox hunting has been in the news again because it is five years this week since the hunting ban was passed. The decades of bitter protest against hunting followed by years of equally bitter protests in favour have largely been put behind us. Much of the Armageddon promised by the pro-hunt lobby has failed to materialise, thousands of dogs were not put down, the countryside has not become an economic desert and we are not overrun with packs of marauding foxes. Some animal rights activists continue to complain that the law is being abused, and the Countryside Alliance continue to vociferously campaign for restoration; but drag hunting has become an acceptable subsititute, and most people seem content with the new status quo.

Our opponents are trying to show the offer to hold a free vote by David Cameron as a party political divide, as the Labour poster above clearly demonstrates. The Lib Dems, too are trying to indicate that a Conservative Government will definitely support the re-introduction of fox hunting (and by implication, suggesting I support it, too) as this snippet from a local Lib Dem leaflet shows.

Labour devoted several hundred pointless hours in debating this topic for years and ended up with a class-based divisive law that pleased no-one. I am certain Conservatives will not make that mistake, David Cameron has rightly offered a fresh debate on a party free 'vote with your conscience' basis because he respects that passions run very high on this question.

I think many members of the public will think us wrong to re-open the debate at a time of economic and social crisis like this, but if the hunting issue is debated as part of the much wider issue of our loss of freedom and liberty in many areas of our life, or as part of the questions surrounding protecting our countryside way of life, that objection would not be fair.

If I am elected I have said that I will not vote to re-instate hunting. This caused disbelief (or was it -perish the thought- disappointment?) when I was approached and asked about it by the League Against Cruel Sports earlier this year. I have since found out that several of my fellow PPC's across the country are inclined -like me- not to vote to abolish the ban now that we have one. Some people are surprised by this, wrongly imagining all Conservatives to be supporters of hunting as the kind of stereotype put about by our political opponents.

While it is true that in the current Parliament a majority of Conservatives have rural constituencies where many residents are passionate supporters of the sport, if we win in 2010 we will be adding hundreds of new Conservative MP's from urban and city constituencies where opinions may differ.

Until we know the make-up of the next House of Commons, and know the terms and details of a future Bill to legalise hunting with dogs, guessing the outcome of a vote is pointless. But the slogan Labour put on the poster above is both misleading and dishonest.

Monday, November 09, 2009

A sobering moment

As usual I attended the rememberance day service in Torbay yesterday.

As usual it was a sobering moment.

While the service calls on God to give wisdom to our leaders and politicians we are standing in rememberance of the terrible aftermath of collective failure of wisdom which is modern warfare.

Most wars in modern times have been the result of a failure of leaders (often, on all sides) to lead wisely.

Even the Second World War, where we had a clear moral purpose and an urgent need to go to war to defend ourselves is a conflict that Winston Churchill thought could have, and should have been prevented. In his own memoir of WW11 written in 1947 (Volume 1 The Gathering Storm) , he makes clear that he felt that had the Western leaders shown more determination in the 1930's to oppose German re armament, and also resolve to ensure their own defence remained strong, Hitler would have not had the confidence or the military ability to set out on his deadly course.

Even then, had the leaders of Great Britain and France stood resolutely against his early incursions and aggressions it is highly likely that the world war could have been avoided.

But much more on every one's mind yesterday - and the reason the number of attendees was sharply up this year - is Afghanistan.

Incredibly this conflict has now outlasted not only the two World Wars but also post-war conflicts in Palestine, Malaya, Korea, Suez , Kenya, Cyprus, Borneo, Aden, Radfan, Oman, Dhofar, The Falklands War and the two Gulf Wars.

After so long it is hardly surprising that the public are confused and vague about just why our soldiers are there. The purported reason - that otherwise the streets of London will be awash with terrorists - not surprisingly fails to strike with people and the secondary reason, that the alternative is 'instability in the entire Middle East' prompts the question 'Just when was the Middle East stable to begin with?'

The conflict is hard for soldiers because the Labour Government have become so mistrusted by the public on this (mainly because of the mess that was the argument for going after Saddam and the whole WMD fiasco) that declarations by ministers that we need to stay are just not believed by even senior military people any more.

The Government need to establish with us all that we are not there simply as a fig-leaf to the Americans. We need to be reminded that being dragged into this conflict was not simply a knee-jerk revenge action caused by the 9/11 attacks but a properly though out strategic move to introduce democracy and in so doing hopefully eliminate Muslim extremism.

The snag is that even if we succeed in delivering elections the problem is not ended. Extremists flourish when democracy fails people. Leaving President Karsai in charge of Afghanistan looks increasingly about as sensible as leaving Leslie Phillips in charge of a girls boarding school sixth form.

When citizens think their politicians are corrupt, self interested, tribal and inept they can easily become attracted to the ideologue, the zealot and the bigots that spring up offering clear cut alternatives. One reason that the political and religeous extremists are flourishing is the collective disillusion with the honesty, integrity and wisdom of the existing, usually elected, politicians of many countries.

And that -very sadly- includes this one.

Which is why we urgently need to put our own political house in order.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

We were told
the truth in 1975 -
but did not hear

It is fascinating doing some research into the whole EEC/EU debate from the early 1970’s as I did as part of yesterdays post and the likely announcement by David Cameron tomorrow (that the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty means we won't be having a referendum on it).

So much of the ire about Europe today is based on the modern 'fact' that people at the time ‘weren’t told’ that the project was to create a federal superstate.

I get this from UKIP people on the doorstep all the time, they say that Heath ‘misled the nation’ over the EU. I have always believed they were right, I have said many times that people thought we were just joining the a free trade area, not a superstate.

In common with the majority of the British People I was not able to take part in the debate at the time, so I cannot say I can remember. But the documentary evidence still available that I have turned up this week flatly contradicts this sentiment, much to my surprise.

On holiday recently I read Heaths autobiography and in that he says he always made clear what the scope of the project was. In just a few days searching I have found scores of references in speeches and leaflets at the time from both proponents and opponents of the EEC that we would indeed be agreeing to become part of an eventual single, unified 'United States of Europe' with ambitions to unify and have one currency as far back as 1969.

"At the Hague Summit, on 1 and 2 December 1969, a decision was taken, on a proposal from the German Chancellor and former Finance Minister, Willy Brandt, to draw up a step-by-step plan with a view to creating a European economic and monetary union. On 6 March 1970, the Council instructed the Luxembourg Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Pierre Werner, to chair a committee mandated to pinpoint the fundamental options for the gradual creation of an economic and monetary union among the then six Member States."

I knew we tried and failed to agree terms to join the EEC in 1962, but I didn't know that Wilson had begun talks again in 1967, and yet again failed to find enough common ground.

Here is the climax of a speech Ted Heath gave in 1972 in Brussels at the ceremony to mark the end of negotiations, and before Parliament debated and then ratified the accession treaty :

“What design should we seek for the New Europe? It must be a Europe which is strong and confident within itself. A Europe in which we shall be working for the progressive relaxation and elimination of east/west tensions. A Europe conscious of the interests of its friends and partners. A Europe alive to its great responsibilities in the common struggle of humanity for a better life.

Thus this ceremony marks an end and a beginning. An end to divisions which have stricken Europe for centuries. A beginning of another stage in the construction of a new and greater Europe.”

This makes it abundantly clear what Heaths vision for Europe was - he saw the EEC as a building block for a much wider, and much closer union.

And in the leaflet that went to every home in Britain in 1975 the very main page stated in bold print:

The aims of the Common Market are:

* To bring together the peoples of Europe.

* To raise living standards and improve working conditions.

* To promote growth and boost world trade.

* To help the poorest regions of Europe and the rest of the world.

* To help maintain peace and freedom

The fact is people were told it was going to be a union that went far beyond a trade area, but weren’t worried about this in 1973 or 1975 when we were nationally bankrupt and an international laughing stock.

Politicians and the voting public of the time had seen Britain win a war and promptly lose an empire and then slide from the worlds main power to a third-rate and still contracting economy by the early 1970's. They thought a 'merger' was the best way to stay relevant on the world stage.

No-one foresaw that possibility that we would soon elect a Government that would reshape Britains economy and make the country independently powerful enough to manage outside the EU if we wanted to.

That is why the debate has emerged in the way that it has, not that we were misled in 1973 or in 1975 but we joined the EU at the very nadir of our national fortunes, and had we not joined in 1973 we probably would have remained independent to this day.

Either way I remain of the view that the public are overdue to have a say on our EU membership, whatever we were or weren't clear about in 1973 we have the information now and a new generation of Britons, brought up in a different era, need to have a voice on this.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Lisbon, now we have arrived at the bridge - are we going to cross it?

It looks almost certain that the Lisbon Treaty is about to be ratified.

From that moment onwards it becomes binding on all the members, ourselves included.

Up to now David Cameron has been relying on his promise, made 26 months ago to Sun readers, that if the treaty wasn't ratified by the time of the next election we would offer the public a referendum on the treaty if elected. The big issue has always been 'yes, but what will you do if the treaty has been ratified by then?' and the answer has been 'we will cross that bridge when we come to it'.

Well here we are, the Treaty is about to be ratified and we have arrived at the bridge. In the next few days my party has to say what we are going to do about Europe if we are elected.

Many Conservatives feel that we should go ahead and have a referendum on the treaty anyway - but in my view this would be meaningless, we can't leave just the treaty we would have to leave the EU entirely. The referendum would in the end be about staying in or leaving the EU - the Liberal Democrats proposal. This is the most appealing option on the surface, we would have a vote and put the issue to bed for the next thirty years or so.

Why won't there be a vote like that? because all research showns that voters are very afraid of leaving (or being chucked out) of the EU. It looks very likely that an 'in or out' referendum would overhwelmingly say 'in' - and of course that would also then validate Lisbon - which is why the very pro EU Lib Dems suggested it in the first place.

The real challenge for those fighting the growing EU octopus is to win the hearts and minds of the British public over to the fact that all would not be lost if we left. They need to establish that far from having something to fear from leaving the EU there could be economic advantages, as evidenced by two of of the worlds wealthiest (per head of population) nations -Norway and Switzerland- neither of whom are in the Union. But that is not where we are today and a referendum that endorsed the status quo would in effect make the EU influence over British policy even greater than it already is.

So I am reliably informed that Cameron will instead propose that we pledge in our next manifesto to repatriate several important powers from Europe, possibly returning the opt-outs that John Major negotiated for instance, which backed with a win at the general election would give him the authority to go in and give the EU a Mrs Thatcher style hand-bagging.

ConservativeHome the very Euro-sceptic website run by Tim Montgomerie says "One member of the shadow cabinet told me that 'we don't need a mandate to renegotiate from a referendum... A manifesto mandate will be just as good'. CCHQ is worried that a referendum could easily become about issues other than Europe. 'Imagine,' said one key official at CCHQ, 'if we are in the middle of very, very difficult budget cuts. The unions and our political opponents would urge voters to use the referendum to kick the Tory government in the teeth. A manifesto mandate is safer, cleaner, less distracting."

If this does turn out to be the strategy it is a high risk one, but it might work. It will provide just enough to push the issue past the General Election (though it will add to suspicions amongst the UKIP tendancy that Cameron may - like many predecessors - fudge the Europe question and it will do nothing to encourage their support).

Everyone knows how explosive the EU issue has been for the party in the past and there is little appetite for a fight now, however the next generation of Conservative MP's looks likely to be the most Eurosceptic ever, and in the longer term they may well be unhappy with any Government that is not going to fully and openly consult with the British public over the whole Europe issue.

I believe that for this plan to work it will need some pretty instant results. If David Cameron as Prime Minister turns out to be as nationally self-interested and hard-nosed as Mrs Thatcher was and if he wins a big mandate at the election and then wins big concessions from the EU then much of the heat on this topic will probably dissipate. But there are a lot of 'ifs' there.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Big Dave looks a step nearer No 10.

Three different polls have come out in the last 24 hours all showing a very big lead for my mate Dave*.

The three polls came from different organisations, interestingly all using their own techniques (the days when they all just used to ask 1000 people 'who will you vote for' are long gone, now they use the internet, telephone canvassing and a lot of complicated correction formula's to represent a proper cross section of people).

Anyway, MORI said it was Con 42: Lab 26: Lib 19.
ICM then said it was 44, 27, 18
and new kid on the block, Canadian outfit Angus Reid Strategies said it was 40, 23, 20.

A regional analysis by MORI said that in just England the figures are Conservatives 47, Labour 24 and the Lib Dems 21.

At this point in the electoral cycle it is becoming hard to see how the Labour party can pull things back.

Even if they change leader (which they won't) and even if they had a superstar replacement in the wings (they don't) it is an almost unbridgeable gap to claw back enough support to win outright.

Why has Labour support dropped back? Only a week ago the papers were talking about the gap closing, a Labour fightback and the prospect of them winning enough support to deprive the Conservatives of a working majority - even of Labour still being the largest party in a hung parliament.

The reason is simple. The public famously hate the prospect of a hung parliament, as soon as it looks likely or is openly talked about Labours vote share plunges. This is very bad news for them and suggests that whatever they do the public mind is made up.

They want out of this Labour Government.

* Honesty Alert. Dave is not actually my mate. We have shared a beer, but only because he got stuck with me in Torbay for hours the last time he came here when his helicopter couldn't take off.

I am away from tomorrow for a week. If I get time to update the Blog I will - but it will be via my Iphone so expect even more errors than usual!!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Just wait a moment.

I have decided to publicly support the Scotts Meadow campaign to protect green space in Torbay from being built on as a result of Government dictat for 15,000 new homes. The campaign has ferociously re-ignited following publication of the draft strategy of the Torbay Local Development Framework for consulttation, which earmarks this green space and several others for potential future housebuilding.

Torbay has a massive amount of run-down and dilapidated property which could and should be redeveloped long before we consider building on what little amount of virgin space is left in the borough. Even then, I can see no basis for building over any of the Scotts Meadow land and fully support their campaign to protect this space.

If there is a change of Government next year the decision making ability for this will return to local politicians who will have to decide whether local people actually want 15,000 more homes, 30,000 more cars and maybe 60,000 new neighbours in the next few years. I would guess, given the strength of public opinion about this when I am out canvassing, that if the Conservatives win the next General Election this plan will be dropped pretty quickly.

Nobody doubts that some local families are urgently in need of improved accommodation (which is itself damning evidence of Labour failure) but simply forcing developers to concrete over the last few scraps of green space left in the Bay is not the answer. Even if you agree that the 6,000 people on the waiting list for subsidised social housing all need a new home (which I don't) 15,000 dwellings represents a near 30% increase in the size of Torbay housing stock, either we would have acres of empty 'old' homes or we are talking about a substantial influx of new residents. The figure was in fact hastily arrived at by civil servants reacting to Gordon Browns foolish 2007 promise to build 3,000,000 new homes across the country by 2020 and then passed down through the Regional Development Agency to councils.

Much work has been done by the council and the Mayor to identify existing 'brown field' industrial sites that could be redeveloped for social housing. The council have identified that about half the number of homes having to be planned for could be incorporated into existing urban developments over the period, but they cannot find any alternative sites for the other homes demanded by 2026 other than virgin green space.

Local residents know better than anyone what their community needs, and they know full well that the only person who thinks Torbay 'needs' 15,000 new homes is currently a resident 200 miles away in 10 Downing Street.

The option not on offer, not being discussed and not being planned for is anything less than 15,000 new homes. What kind of democracy is that?

The council must delay any further work on the development programme until both the economic and political situations become much clearer.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

MP's should shut up and pay up.

Some senior MP's are publicly challenging conclusions reached by former civil servant Sir Thomas Legg, who has been leading a review of all MP's expense claims dating back to 2004. I think the time has come for them to shut up and get their chequebooks out.

It was clear to anyone who knew anything about the expenses regime at Westminster that it was a very lax system, and that some MP's were exploiting it to the full. The MP's created this system themselves an 2001 and have failed to address the behaviour of some of their colleagues, indeed it begins to look as if the majority of MP's have claimed for more than they should have.

I think Adrian Sanders has done the right thing to put his hands up straight away and promise to repay the amount he has over claimed, I hope others will do the same. The public think the very least MP's can do to put this right is get their chequebooks out, although I expect we will wait in vain for an apology from any of them - Mr Sanders included.

Using taxpayers money to fund property speculation and to furnish a luxury lifestyle is totally unacceptable to the public - as is employing family and friends and using taxpayers money for political campaigning.

It is very hard when people think that candidates like me are on the taxpayer gravy train as well. People regularly assume that we are all paid from their taxes. In fact candidates don't get a penny from the Government - we are all volunteers, working for nothing - we fund everything we do ourselves mostly from donations. This is as it should be, I would resist any attempt for Government funding of political parties.

The widespread practice of MP's claiming hundreds a month for food when the canteens and restaurants in Westminster are already heavily subsidised is just the final insult. People I talk to on the doorsteps are dangerously angry about it; they feel completely let down by people they are supposed to be able to trust.

Before becoming the Torbay Parliamentary Candidate in 2002 I was chairman of Windsor Conservatives. I have been an ardent campaigner against the current system of MP's allowances ever since I learned that my then MP Micheal Trend was misusing the system. I led a successful campaign to force the MP to stand down and I have repeatedly and very publicly called for reform. It was clear to me that MP's have been treating the allowances system as an additional source of funding for their own lifestyles or for their political campaigning.

The current parliamentary system for expenses and housing allowances was arrived at following a major review of the system shortly after the Labour Party came back into power in 2001.

In addition to the Legg report into past claims by all MP's standards watchdog Sir Christopher Kelly is due to issue new recommendations for future expenses, pay and allowances before the end of the year. These recommendations will still be subject to vote by MP's although David Cameron has promised that Conservative MP's will adopt the report in it's entirety.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions about the whole sorry saga, and new safeguards are needed. But today's Parliamentarians are not the one's to do it, at every opportunity they have baulked and evaded proper reform. What we need is an election, which will lead to a new House of Commons dominated by untainted public representatives who must then ensure that this never happens again.

We hold public Enquiries into national disasters to establish the causes and avoid a repeat when buildings collapse or bridges fail, such as the Ronan Point flats collapse illustrated here; and we also hold them when organisations suffer catastrophic failure, such as the Victoria Climbie child abuse case. Part of the reason for holding a public enquiry is to restore public faith and confidence.

Personally I think the right way forward for our Parliamentary system is to hold a full public enquiry into the expenses regime created by MP's - not to hound people, or to apportion blame, but to understand how we ended up in this situation and make sure it never happens again.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cleaning Lady
puts PM
in a
right mess

So Gordon "I have a moral compass" Brown has been required to repay £12,400 in expenses for cleaning costs he paid to his brother for a the services of a cleaning woman.

This money was claimed for the cleaning of his London flat, in spite of the fact that as Chancellor he was at all times living in free accommodation at No 11 Downing Street and since 2007 he has had two grace and favour homes to choose from, as well as his main constituency home in Scotland.

Mr Brown bought the third floor apartment in Great Smith Street, near Westminster Abbey, from the administrators of the Robert Maxwell-run TV polling firm AGB Research in December 1992 for the bargain price of £130,000 - a price well below what estate agents at the time thought the property was worth - in circumstances that have always aroused suspicion.

Gordon Browns then closest associate was Geoffrey Robinson MP, who had been a director of the parent company of AGB Research Ltd until 1990.

Many felt at the time that it could not be a coincidence that one of the failed Maxwell companies, chaired by Geoffrey Robinson MP, went bankrupt, and one of its properties, a flat in Westminster, was bought by Gordon Brown MP, also a close friend of Geoffrey Robinson MP, and who was later made Paymaster General in the Treasury.

Today the flat is thought to be worth £700,000.

Gordon Brown assured the media when the expenses row first became public that the arrangement whereby he paid his brother thousands of pounds to sort out the cleaning and maintenance of the flat was within the rules.

But the real embarrassment must surely be that an independent commissioner - appointed by Mr Brown himself - has decided that the arrangement made by our Prime Minister is not acceptable and should not have been going on.

If there was the slightest smidgeon of integrity or honesty left in public life this would be a resigning matter.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Nothing new
about an
environment crisis

I am just old enough to have been on this earth during the first of what have been three main post-war envirmonmental awareness surges.

The Suez crisis of 1956 shut the eponymous canal and created a significant oil shortage - leading to the return of petrol rationing. The public probably for the first time began to appreciate the unsustainable rate at which we were consuming the earths resources, at least in Europe. Consumers reacted by buying smaller, more economical cars - a market dominated by German car manufacturers like Isetta and BMW, and this ultimately led to the design of the British Motor Company Mini and other super economy cars like the Renault 4.

In 1973 the oil crisis led to another step-change in consumer behaviour when war in the Middle East caused a slump in supply and a quadrupling of the oil price by the Arabs.

This created a huge boost to demand for super economical cars and electric vehicles which, although failing to create an all electric future as some had thought, did cause car manufacturers to place fuel economy at the top of the design criteria for new models - where it remains to this day.

And now we have entered the third phase of consumer awareness - this time mostly brought on by the growing concern about the possibility of man-made global warming, allied to a huge increase in the real price of oil.

And as a direct result, consumer habits -including mine- are changing. Yesterday I joined a growing list of others when I part exchanged my comfortable, fast, quiet and very luxurious Mercedes for the worlds most economical and least environmentally harmful volume manufactured car, a Smart Diesel.

I know lots of other people are doing the same thing because the dealer made quite clear that demand for my old large car was close to zero, as was its resale value!

Powered by the worlds smallest and most efficient diesel engine the Smart Car is proof that the internal combustion engine has a role to play in future personal transport. 85mpg and less than 88kg/km means that my energy use and emissions will reduce by over 80% without the need for expensive and heavy batteries, without having to plunder the world for rare metals and without needing to create new power stations to charge up an electric car.

I was pleasantly surprised at how little comfort I was sacrificing actually, the car is beautifully made, well equipped, as quiet and comfortable as a far larger car and although expensive compared to other small cars, cheap when you take it's good resale value into account.

90% of my journeys are made alone, we still have Karens five door Daihatsu for the (increasingly rare) family trips we make and so I felt losing rear seats was a worthwhile trade for increased economy.

I didn't take up the scrappage scheme (my Mercedes will go to a new owner, presumably someone who does a low mileage!) and I did not need a state hand out to persuade me to do this, although the zero car tax is a welcome plus.

There is a waiting list for delivery so I have about a month before my new transport arrives, I will keep you posted as to have it works out in practice.

I am still not convinced about Global Warming, by the way. But I am and always have been convinced that wasting resources is irresponsible - we do have a duty to make what we have go as far as possible.

I should add my kids say it's because I am a skinflint.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

.... Is it just State-sanctioned prying?

Two female police officers are at the centre of a row this week over the legality of their childcare arrangements. Mums Leanne Shepherd and Lucy Jarrett had a reciprocal arrangement by which they would look after each other's child while the other was working in their posts as detective constables with Thames Valley Police. When pregnant they had agreed to go back to work part time under a jobshare scheme - an arrangement that suited them and their employer.

However, an Ofsted inspector visited DC Shepherd to explain that the plan constituted illegal childminding, as it constituted a "reward" of free childcare for looking after each other's children.

The alleged offence arises from the Childcare act of 2006, apparently and now the mothers are told they have to register as if they were professional child minders. Clearly this is very onerous and makes the whole plan unworkable and both mothers have had to find full time childcare and return to full time work.

The main story in the media focused on the lunacy of this law, the fact that it restricts mums from finding work in flat contrast to statements made by the Government about helping mums back to work, and the jobsworth culture of most Agencies and Government departments.

Although I share these concerns I was even more worried by one aspect of the story. How did anyone know about this arrangement? How did the Ofsted inspectors find out about it and why did they decide to call - when they could have simply written a letter?

The whole episode was deeply unnerving, the thought that a schools inspectorate had the manpower and the will to spy on a private arrangement by two women and then to send an inspector to call sums up how far the surveillance powers granted by this Government are being abused.

It also highlights overmanning on a grand scale. You would have thought the inspectors might have been more efficiently employed, er, inspecting schools.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

No friends at home,
and no allies abroad.

Spurned by Obama and under more friendly fire at home Gordon Brown is sinking to depths of unpopularity unseen for a PM in living memory.

So, the man from Illinous says "no".

What a desperately low state this country is in. Bankrupt and now marooned internationally. Frantic efforts by Foreign Office officials failed to secure even a five minute formal meeting between the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern ireland with the President of the United States while both men were in the same building, Gordon Brown had to apparently make do with tugging the great mans sleeve whilst waiting in the kitchen. Oh dear.

The world of international politics and diplomacy is a cold, hard place. As the BBC's Nick Robinson says: We simply don't know if it was down to carelessness - as with the cack-handed reception given to Team Brown at the White House; or political calculation - "why invest time in a foreign leader who could be out of office soon?" or simple pragmatism - "we have a lot to do and we're too busy to fix meetings to help anyone else".

Politicians fear unpopularity is infectious like a particularly virulent plague. Gordon Brown is being seen as a loser -yesterdays man- and being seen to identify with him is increasingly toxic, so the international movers and shakers move gently away from him when he enters the room -especially if the cameras are running.

Then the Telegraph had this story - that Gordon Brown was spurned by American Bankers (hardly surprising given that he has heaped blame on them for everything and then tried to cut their pay) who stayed away in droves from his convention. "Although invitations to a number of Wall Street's biggest banks are known to have been sent, only one senior US banker, 52-year Citigroup veteran Bill Rhodes – who stepped down as chairman of Citigroup North America in July but remains on its board – attended yesterday's economic roundtable."

Brown has brought his office to a new low and it is not just at home that much work needs to be done to repair the reputation of our Government. I can't think of a time in the post-war era when we have had a serving prime minister held in such open distain both at home and abroad. There is something deeply embarrassing for us all in seeing the leader of our country humiliated in this way.

Gordon will have to get used to it, though. The Labour Party Conference next week is known to have such a low attendance that party officials have been offering last minute free tickets to anyone from Brighton who wants to come along.

Nobody is interested in what the Prime Minister has to say, not even the press.

The story at Conference will instead have to be all about the leadership, (again) and what the future holds for the Labour Party in opposition.

Favourite Charles Clarke was first out of the stalls last night with another call for Brown to 'do the decent thing' and in the shadows any number of off the record briefings are already underway from the so-called 'friends' of various cabinet members keen to let it be known that if the unthinkable did happen their man (or woman?) may be persuaded to throw their hat in the ring for a leadership contest.

Expect the action to all be in the fringe meetings debating the future of left-wing politics. Just like the Lib dems this week, Labour have discounted losing and are thinking of a future in opposition.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Wherever next
for the
Lib dems?

The Lib Dem conference is always a bit of fun for political watchers, there is the feeling that they are the warm-up act for the Conference season proper.

In past times they have exploited this opportunity to float the kind of really 'reasonable' policy ideas that have most people saying 'what a good idea, why don't any of the other parties do that?' - these are usually policies that sound great coming from a party that will never be in Government but wouldn't stand up to five minutes scrutiny if they were put forward by anyone else.

However this year the gift seems to have completely left them. Their policy announcements so far have been contradictory, deeply divisive and electorally daft.

So far this year the Lib Dems have talked about the need for 'savage' cuts in public services yet while offering tiny cuts in services have two single proposals alone that would cost an extra £25,000,000,000 to implement:- abolishing student fees and raising the income tax threshold to £10,000.

To 'fully fund' these pledges they have proposed a 'super tax' on houses worth over £1m. This astonishing idea comes from the party that has fought four elections on a promise to abolish the 'unfair' council tax and replace it with a local income tax. Even Lib Dems admit this would 'only' raise £1bn.

And even the briefest analysis of the proposal leaves a stack of questions, who would value the property? What would you do about people who happen to have a valuable property but who are income poor (common amongst pensioners, especially in high value property areas like London and the South East), how much would the tax cost to collect?

Recognising the lack of credibility in their positioning Nick Clegg has volunteered that the pledge to abolish student fees may have to go, causing uproar and an intervention from his popular predecessor Charles Kennedy.

So far Nick Clegg has annoyed students, pensioners and public service workers - three of the most important sectors of the community for his party.

So far this Parliament nine Lib Dem parliamentary candidates have switched to the Conservatives. Listening to Clegg on the Today programme this morning I did wonder for a fleeting moment whether he might be about to make it ten.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Lawyer in trouble with the Law

Red faces again in Government circles today as the story of how Baroness Scotland - the highest lawyer in the land - has broken immigration laws she herself voted for by employing an illegal immigrant.

Incredibly the Attorney-General looks to have fallen foul of exactly the kind of 'innocent until proven guilty' laws I was railing on about in my last post.

It is a requirement under section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act that employers see proof that migrant workers have rights to work legally in the UK - but not only that, the law says they must copy the documentation and keep a record.

It is not enough for an employer to believe that an employee had the right to work in the UK when they were taken on, to comply with the law you have to be able to prove it. This neatly shifts the burden of proof from the authorities to the employer, unless you can prove you checked you are guilty.

Baroness Scotland assured everyone she had seen proof that the employee, Loluahi Tapui, a resident of Tonga, had the right to be employed here; but has so far ignored a request from the Sunlight Centre for Open Politics to provide the proof the law says she must have kept.

I would imagine that she did see proof but like thousands of very small businesses and individuals was not clear that there was such a strict obligation on her to keep records.

Perhaps she will now appreciate the dangers of passing laws that can make people guilty by default.

She might also like to reflect on the fact that employment law has become an unbelievable minefield for very small businesses - a problem that means many won't take employees on any more.
'Thought Crime' Britain.
1984 is here at last.

The two Manchester schoolboys accused of plotting to blow up their school were acquitted in 45 minutes, but not before spending months behind bars. I once plotted to shoot my school headmaster, should I be charged,too?

My children are always bringing up the story I told them of when, as a thirteen year old, a gang of friends and I plotted in some detail how we could assassinate our school headmaster; we had even worked out exactly how to steal a rifle and ammunition from our Shooting Club. This teen fantasy evolved from an intellectual game to think up 'the perfect crime'. The crimes involved quickly graduated to murder, and the target promptly became the school head. Each of us would cook up a plot that we believed would be unsolvable by police - and the others would then find ways in which the crime would be detected.

This is a common theme amongst schoolboys, the Hitchcock film 'Rope' and the Sandra Bullock film Murder By Numbers are both based on the same idea.

So the fact that two Manchester schoolboys should be charged with conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to cause explosions, and then held on remand for months for cooking up just such a plan is in my view an absolute scandal, and the jury's decision to acquit after just 45 minutes deliberation clearly demonstrates what a farce this trial was.

Under this Government we have become obsessed with 'stopping' crime happening - with scant regard for the dangers this causes to civil liberty. Common sense and the rights of innocent citizens to go about their business are now clearly second place to the 'possibility' that one might be about commit an offence.

We now have house arrest ('control orders') for people who have committed no crime but who are considered to be 'at risk' of doing so. The Government wanted to increase the amount of time citizens can be held without charge from a few days to three months, and succeeded in getting a longer detention without charge regime than Russia or Zimbabwe. We are one of the few democracies in the world where you can be arrested and held because someone thinks you 'might' be considering committing a crime.

This issue permeates so much of our lives. The need to have 11m adults undergo a CRB check has caused a fuss this week, and is another symptom of the potential felon paranoia - everyone is a potential child molester, and apparently, unless you can prove you aren't one you won't be allowed near children.

The same State suspicion applies to your personal financial affairs, since everyone these days is a potential money laundering terrorist you cannot deposit your savings in a bank, instruct a solicitor or even rent an office without providing proof of identity.

And the whole approach of the inland revenue and customs service has shifted so that the onus is on the accused to prove innocence rather than the authorities to prove guilt, again the assumption being that we are all 'at it'.

The Racial and Religious Hatred Act clearly takes this line, too. It's apparently not enough to have more serious penalties for racially motivated crime; we now need a special offence which again jumps to a false conclusion, that people are prone to racial or religious hatred and with a bit of a prod, we will all become violent bigots.

Perhaps if the authorities focused on respecting and trusting it's own free citizens a bit more it might find that the public reciprocate by respecting and trusting those in authority.

I know being the victim of a serious crime is a terrible trauma, and I believe that any Government has a duty to do all it can to prevent crime. One of the best ways of preventing crime is to make sure that those who commit offences are always caught, and punished in such a manner as to deter others and prevent habitial criminals from repeat offending.

The really frightening thing is, whilst the authorities constrain the civil liberties of millions of innocent citizens in the name of 'the war on terror' or the 'fight against crime' those who really do break the law have never had it so good - crime clear up rates, even after considerable massaging, are at an all time low.

And if and when they are actually found guilty the chances of going to prison are lower than ever. Because the prisons are full judges are under huge pressure to rely on community based punishments in an ever wider range of cases. Even then, when and if a criminal is unlucky enough to actually be incarcerated, they will be considered for parole or early release frighteningly soon.

"Tough on Crime, Tough on the causes of crime'? - Surely one of the most cynical and hollow promises ever made by a modern politician.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The ol' Good Cut Bad Cut routine...

Welcome to Brown Land, where a 9.3% cut in public spending is an 'Investment' and a 10% cut is 'slash and burn'.

Gordon Brown has once again made a complete idiot of himself by finally admitting that a Labour Government will make spending cuts if re elected after months of taunting 'It's a choice between Tory cuts vs Labour investment'. At the TUC conference yesterday he mumbled into his microphone that there would be, er, cuts in spending under a future Labour Government.

The Prime Ministers discomfort was ratcheted up a notch this morning by disclosures that while he was busy saying 'Tories will cut by 10% nahh nahh" his own Government have been drawing up detailed plans to cut by .... 9.3%.

Now, apparently it's a choice between Labours 'good' cuts and the Tories 'bad' cuts. The main difference according to Frank Dobson on Newsnight the other evening is that Tories are 'slavering' at the prospect of cutting public spending whereas Labour are dreading it. So that's all right then.

Making public spending cuts is easier to argue about than to do, however. As business owners and many consumers know only too well, signing up for things is easy, getting out of the contract later is much harder. Cutting staff anywhere has huge redundancy and enhanced pension cost implications, big capital projects are agreed years, sometimes decades in advance and swathes of a Governments financial commitments are not in their immediate short term control. When a person or a business has legal finacial obligations that exceed their ability to pay for them they are forced into bankruptcy as the only way out. The Government cannot do this, and instead is forced to borrow more and more money at higher and higher interest rates - money that will have to be serviced via growing interest payments and which will eventually have to be repaid.

Within a year or two interest payments on Britains ballooning national debt will become Governments third largest overhead behind Health and Welfare. It will be more than we spend on education - and roughly equal to the budgets of the Transport, Home Office, Culture & Sport, Foreign Office, Energy & Climate Change, Business and Enterprise, Agriculture and Rural Affairs and International Development Departments added together.

And interest is not a discretionary payment, forcing an even bigger squeeze on those few budgets that can be easily and quickly reduced. And then on top of this you need to find a way of keeping some income spare to try and reduce the debt otherwise the problem just gets worse every year.

For ten years Conservatives have been warning about the hazards of growing public spending. As the economy expanded through the 1990's the Governments income grew even before they increased taxes. Instead of using that growth to reduce borrowing the Government spent it, and worse, they made massive financial commitments far into the future by way of the Private Finance Initiative and by hiring millions of public sector staff directly -all of whom now qualify for enhanced pension entitlements.

Turning the taps on is popular, quick and easy; stemming the flow is a very long and slow slog indeed.

And nobody is going to enjoy doing it.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Shoots of

Why Labour spinners
are so desperate to talk up
the economy.

A major factor prolonging a recession is a lack of confidence. Consumers and businesses who feel that bad times still lie ahead will tend to spend less - creating economic conditions of poor demand in which recovery becomes very difficult. As a result of this leaders, the media and most business institutions have an interest in 'talking the market up' even when often there is no uplift at all.

Norman Lamont famously got into trouble for talking up the economy even as the 1990's recession was just getting going (In October 1991, based on CBI and Institute of Directors business surveys, he said "what we are seeing is the return of that vital ingredient - confidence. The Green shoots of economic spring are appearing once again).

In January this year Labour spin doctors were forced into a massive rescue operation when Baroness Vadera claimed there were 'green shoots' of recovery in the air. The remarks came on a day when UK firms announced large-scale job losses and share prices slumped by almost 5%. The economy then plunged into a record second quarter recession, a steeper faster decline than any recession since the 1930's depression.

Of course for Labour there is another reason to talk up the economy - an impending election. Labour have built their entire election strategy on the basis that if the public can be persuaded that the 'recession has ended' they might just get some credit for it come polling day.

Dr Pedrick Friend has joined in this week through the local newspaper, here he is making utterly ludicrous statements about the economy which, even though the claims are so wrong they insult our intelligence, cannot be allowed to go uncorrected.

He says in his letter : "Economic green shoots are all around, economic confidence is surging as the stock market rockets, house prices recover and the manufacturing sector see more orders."
  • House prices have not recovered - they lost at least 20% last year and are stagnant.
  • Shares have not 'rocketed' either - the stock market has climbed back to where it was in 1997 when Labour came to power
  • Manufacturers are not 'seeing more orders' The CIPS monthly index of manufacturing orders fell in August.

The problem with calling the bottom of a recession is that often the pain is felt by people long after the technical period of economic contraction has finished. Although Vadera was wrong, Lamont wasn't. The 1990 recession ended -as he said- in 1991. But it was 1996 before there was a return of 'the feel-good factor' and consumer confidence came back.

But another issue is going to make this recession much harder to call anyway. 1990 and 1981 were recessions that had a distinct beginning, middle and end. They were 'U' shaped where economic activity fell, stabilised for a bit and then grew again.

But in the 1950's and 1970's we had a series of 'W' shaped recessions, where economic conditions meant that the recovery created another overload, creating another recession. We used to call this 'stop-go' economics and it's main cause was inflation. Every time the economy started to expand prices and then wages shot up, then the pound would fall as its value become less compared to other currencies, then interest rates had to go up and the whole economy ground to a halt again.

Pedrick-Friend refers in his letter to the Governments actions being ' a sensible Keynesian fiscal boost'. In fact their plan involved devaluing the pound, doubling the national debt and then printing £200,000,000,000 to fund a Government spending spree. The inevitable inflation this policy has unleashed will devalue savings and drive interest rates upwards. Higher interest rates will impact on the economy at just the wrong moment, causing pain to millions of home owners, it will also divert billions that could have been spent on public services into paying interest on the trillion pound National Debt we have accumulated.

Maynard Keynes will be turning in his grave.