Category Archives: In The News

PMs Speech To Conference 2016

PMs Speech To Conference 2016

I was never a Cameroon, but I did grow to admire the previous PM’s statesmanship and strong Leadership and he was very very good at speeches.

Theresa May is not as good at speeches, but she still delivered it today in a confident and compelling way.  Judging by the commentary I am hearing and reading, the speech was well-received and cleverly politically-positioned.  She is pitching for the broad middle ground and the populist common ground in a way that has hints of Tony Blair and hints of Nigel Farage.  I think she believes it too, so we will probably see policy follow to match the rhetoric.

I was uncomfortable at her comments about “foreign workers” and very uncomfortable about this odd idea of forcing companies to produce “lists” of the national origins of their staff.  I have no problem with encouraging companies to look first to home ground, nor with legislating to prevent unfair discrimination, but creating “lists” and trying to use them to shame companies based on geographical birthplace locations?  Gave me a cold chill, that one.

I’m not a statist, or an authoritarian.  I believe in free markets as the best tool for social mobility and overall good the world has ever seen. I believe that state intervention is often ill-judged, harmful and counter-productive.  So her speech wasn’t pitched at me.  It was pitched at all the: “what is the world coming to?” people out there, who believe that the world is going down the sewer.  She talked a lot about the people who feel “left out” of “Globalism” and set out her stall as a “Woman Of The People.”  Which people she was referring to was a little vague, but it certainly wasn’t rich people.

She took big steps onto Labour territory – before Labour become a hard-left militant personality cult.  And she took big steps onto UKIP territory, before UKIP swung to the Left to try and hoover up Labour’s disaffected Northern vote.  She clearly appealed to that One Nation, “let the state put its  arms around you and keep you safe”, Big Government branch of the Conservatives.  There are lots of them.

But people who think she is another Margaret Thatcher profoundly misunderstand Thatcherism and were clearly not listening to the content of her speech.  In some ways she seems more like Heath than Thatcher.  But even that would be wrong.  She is a whole new thing.  I’m trying to maintain an open mind.  I hope that all the (many) good things she said are actioned and the Statist and Illiberal stuff was just words.  Time will tell, I guess.  But whatever I, or anybody else, thinks – she has certainly thrown down a political gauntlet.  It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Wandsworth Council reject proposals for landlord licensing scheme

The following article can be found in its original form at the website here.

Wandsworth Council reject proposals for landlord licensing scheme

Investigations by London Property Licensing have revealed a decision by Wandsworth Council not to implement a new landlord licensing scheme.

Regulation of the private rented sector is a topic that has recently been considered by Wandsworth Council’s Housing and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee. In a report presented on 6 July 2016, the Committee noted that the private rented sector accounts for about a third of the housing stock, while the number of complaints about poor quality accommodation have reduced in recent years.

The report noted that most complaints are resolved through negotiation and the level of tenant satisfaction is very high, at 85%. It also noted a rise in the number of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), estimated to be around 15,000 properties.

Less than 500 of these properties are currently licensed under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme as most properties fall outside the licensing scheme criteria.

Having considered the idea of additional or selective licensing, the report concluded that there was no evidence available to justify the introduction of either scheme and so no licensing consultation will be carried out.

Instead the council have come up with a list of ten proposals to better regulate the private rented sector and tackle the small minority of rogue landlords using existing powers. These include:

  • Allocating a higher priority to housing enforcement in the three wards with the highest volume of complaints (Furzedown, Graveney & Tooting wards).
  • Setting up targeted action days.
  • Streamlining admin support so officers can concentrate on landlord / tenant activity.
  • Improving information and advice on the council’s website.
  • Reviewing processes for serving legal notices.
  • Improving training and development for staff on new legislation.
  • Refocusing resources on higher priority complaints and investigations.
  • Setting up a new landlord / letting agent forum and update newsletters.
  • Improving use of IT systems.
  • Improving information sharing and joint working with planning and housing benefits.

Following approval of the recommendations by Overview and Scrutiny on 6 July, the report was supported by the Council’s Executive on 11 July and the 10-point action plan will now be implemented.

This announcement is sure to welcomed by many Wandsworth landlords and letting agents who already strive to provide safe and decent accommodation for their tenants.

David Smith, Policy Director at the Residential Landlord Association commented:

It is really good to see a council considering a range of options around landlord regulation rather than defaulting to licensing.

The Housing Act 2004 offers a range of flexible powers to Councils and this range will shortly be widened with changes in the Housing and Planning Act; Local Housing Authorities should take a risk-based approach and focus their powers on directly addressing the real problems in the Private Rented Sector. It is good to see that Wandsworth has done this.

Sherbet. Apparently.

Sherbet.  Apparently.

You really have to watch out for these Independent Councillors.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-37231548

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Concerned About The Castle

Concerned About The Castle

So we learned three things this week, each of which would be a concern on its own, but when put together paint an ever grimmer picture.

First we get the article in the Wisbech Standard which concerns the idea that the County Council might be looking to sell or lease the building known as Wisbech Castle.

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Then Cllr. Michelle Tanfield-Johnson writes an angry piece on Facebook about the issue, primarily furious (and rightly so) that she is the Cabinet Member for Tourism at Fenland District Council and yet County Council had no been in touch with her about this issue.

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Then we learnt that Officers at Fenland District Council HAD been consulted about this and had already ruled out any chance of taking the property on themselves.

I’m not incredibly surprised that CCC didn’t bother to keep the FDC Cabinet Member in the loop.  It is, after all, a CCC property and I guess the Officers don’t think about the political leads on other councils as much as they probably should.

But what I am very surprised about is that FDC Officers,who DO answer directly to their Cabinet Members, have made a key decision about a key asset without consulting the relevant Cabinet Member at all.  If this is the case, as it appears to be, then its a very shoddy way to treat a Cabinet Member and a very undemocratic way to make decisions.

I’d like to know how far this goes.  Because I cannot believe that FDC Leader Cllr John Clark would have been okay about this decision being taken without the Cabinet Member for tourism even having input into it.  Did the FDC Officers decide they wouldn’t take the property on completely unilaterally, without evening bothering to speak to the Leader of the Council? If that were the case it would be quite a serious revelation.  I wish Cllr Michelle Tanfield all the best in getting to the bottom of it.

Meanwhile, Through The Looking Glass

Meanwhile, Through The Looking Glass

I have never really thought of Cllr. Paul Clapp as a political mastermind, but I have to give it to him.  His latest piece of spin is truly exceptional in both its avoidance and sheer gall.  I probably should be surprised that a local newspaper would give it the time of day, but I’m not. :)  Here it is: Link

This is what it says:

Faded white lines on a busy zebra crossing in Wisbech are to be re-painted after eight months of what a councillor has said had become a potential death trap.

The crossing in Churchill Road, that takes pedestrians from the Horsefair shopping centre to the garage on the other side, is to see the lines re-instated by county council workers on Friday August 26.

“With the lines faded, motorists new to the area had no idea it was a crossing point and people have been reporting near misses for months, said councillor Paul Clapp.

“I’m delighted it’s being repainted but it should never have got that bad in the first place.

“I’ve nearly been squashed there countless times and I know of plenty others in the same situation. It was like a death trap.”

He added: “It’s all down to Government cuts slowing down essential work such as this.”

Other work being carried out on the same day includes a keep clear sign being re-instated in Norwich road at the junction with Kennedy Court and white line painting in Wisbech North.

Councillor Virginia Bucknor said “The crossing is in a terrible condition but in addition it is very poorly designed for how busy that roundabout is now.

“It was put there 30 years ago when Wisbech didn’t have half the traffic of today.

“The town has gone from a population of 20,000 to more than 44,000 yet the highways infrastructure has been neglected for decades and cannot cope.”

A pedestrian trying to cross in 2016 was a very different story to one crossing thirty years ago due to traffic volume, she added.

And this is what I would propose it SHOULD say:

Faded white lines on a busy zebra crossing in Wisbech are to be re-painted after eight months of County Councillor failure to address a potential death trap.

The crossing in Churchill Road, that takes pedestrians from the Horsefair shopping centre to the garage on the other side, is to see the lines re-instated by county council workers on Friday August 26.

“With the lines faded, motorists new to the area had no idea it was a crossing point and people have been reporting near misses for months, is what could have been said by councillor Paul Clapp, who is the elected County Councillor for the area and whose job it is to make sure this sort of work gets done in a timely fashion so that people are not put at risk. “Why are you blaming the Government for your inability to do your job?” a balanced and investigative reporter interested in the truth could have asked.

“I’m delighted it’s being repainted but it should never have got that bad in the first place. If only I had been able to do the very thing that I was elected to do. Ah well, never mind.”

“I’ve nearly been squashed there countless times and I know of plenty others in the same situation. It was like a death trap. Somebody needs to get hold of the person responsible and give them a piece of their mind. Has anybody got a mirror?

He could have added: “It’s all down to Government cuts slowing down essential work such as this.” The fact that the work is being done may seem to prove that it had nothing at all to do with “Government Cuts” and more to do with bureaucracy and effective representation, but that’s definitely not the case. Nope. No Chance At all. Ahem.

Councillor Virginia Bucknor could have said “The crossing is in a terrible condition but in addition it is very poorly designed for how busy that roundabout is now. If my current County Councillor was a Conservative I’d be quick to lay the blame, but since its UKIP and I’m terrified they might stand against me in an election because I know I’d lose, I’ll not mention the Councillor at all.”

“The town has gone from a population of 20,000 to more than 44,000 yet the highways infrastructure has been neglected for decades and cannot cope. If only there were people we elected to County Council to make sensible decisions about spending priorities….”

Nevertheless, nice work Paul.  It’s like a shopkeeper moaning about the window displays in their own shop.  “Nobody is buying anything!  If only I had a better window display!”  :)

Anybody would think there was an election coming next year.  :)

Throwing Water On The Coals

Throwing Water On The Coals

I don’t know how many readers have ever sat in a sauna?  Quite a few, I would imagine.  You will recognise, then, the little bucket you sometimes find, complete with a ladle to put some additional water on the coals.  Doing this creates a hiss of steam as the air grows suddenly much hotter.  Sometimes, in a show of much macho bravado, I have seen people pour several ladles onto the coals at once.  The air becomes unbearable, it hurts to breathe, your skin stings with the high temperature of the steam that rises quickly up to the ceiling.

But what is really happening?  Does the sauna get hotter?

Nope.

In fact, every time you ladle more water onto those coals you cool the sauna down.  It doesn’t feel like that’s what is happening, because the temporary burst of steam itself is immediate and hot.  But the overall ambient temperature falls, as the heat energy is used to turn the cold water to hot steam.

Newcomers to saunas don’t realise this.  They think that the more water you put on, the hotter the sauna gets.  This isn’t a poor conclusion, given the tangible evidence you experience.  It just happens to be wrong.  In fact, you are transferring heat from the coals to the air, which is why the sauna feels hotter temporarily due to the heated moisture/humidity now contacting your skin, while the overall temperature of the sauna as a whole fractionally falls.

The Bank Of England’s “solution” to the “problem” of a “slowdown” in the UK Economy after Brexit is to “stimulate” the economy through a series of measures.  They dropped the interest rate from half a percent, to quarter of a percent.  They’ve started another load of Devil’s Work Quantitative Easing.  All aimed at kicking the economy into action.

So, presuming the banks even bother to pass on the cut in interest rates, what do we achieve?  At a quarter of a percent, what is even the point of saving at all?  Inflation wipes out any gains you make.  Why would anybody bother?  At some point everybody seems to forget that in order to have money for people to borrow, somebody has to be saving it.

Unless, of course, you are just printing more money.  Then nobody needs to save, right?  You crank up the (virtual) printing press and out come those (virtual) crisp fresh notes.  Free money!   But it isn’t, is it?  It’s just devaluing all the money presently in existence.  Which creates price inflation.  Quantitative Easing is simply the transfer of money from everybody who has some, to whoever gets the new money the earliest.  Which, conveniently, is the banks and the Government.

Meanwhile, banks are encouraged to lend more, while nobody is encouraged to save more.  More and more and more borrowing to “stimulate” the economy.  This is Keynes at his foul work again, encourage Governments to do what they do best – tax, borrow and spend.

And the sad thing is – it works.  For a while.  The FTSE’s soar on the expectation of “stimulus” (and why wouldn’t they, when the Government is stealth taxing people and then hurling the money at the big players?).  Business grow “confident” – as long as you talk to and listen to the right businesses.  Those being the ones closest to the Magic Money Tree.   It’s win-win.  Since, if it causes economic stagnation, inflation, unemployment, cost-of-living rises and other economic woes you can just say: “We didn’t do enough, Brexit brought us down despite our efforts.”  And if it succeeds (due to other factors) you can say: “We’d have been better off without Brexit, but at least our stimulus saved us from the worst.”

By trying to create a growing economy by slashing interest rates below the point anybody would bother saving, and by printing new money and pushing it out into the markets – you are doing the economic equivalent of throwing water on the coals in the sauna.  There’s noise, and it feels really hot for a while, and you might even get burned.  But when the mist settles, the temperature drops below the level it was at before.  How much lower?  That depends on how much economic macho bravado you choose to indulge in.  A little and the harm is minimal.  A lot?  That’s a different pile of hot stones entirely.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGBrln9HP7c

This excellent video is aimed at an American audience, but remains every
bit as true in the United Kingdom.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyVmWgdIAmY

And this is great too.

Aftermath

Aftermath

Leadsom gone.  Stealing the memberships’ chance to vote against May with it.  It feels like a stitch-up, but its easy to get paranoid about these things.

Ah well. On the plus side, if you can be bought, badgered or bullied out of standing, you probably weren’t Prime Minister material after all.

On the down side, welcome to the V for Vendetta, the prequel.  May was being quoted on the radio this morning talking about Laws to prevent “high pay” and Laws to force companies to have “workers” on their “boards”.  Control, control, control.  No political compass.  Some folks will love it.

Nothing much left of the Conservative Party I remember, these days. Sad times.

I guess just focusing on helping local people is the way forwards. Let the grandees in Grand Hats do their thing and try not to get crushed underfoot.

 

Angela, Andrea and Suzanne

Angela, Andrea and Suzanne

As a Conservative, I should support Jeremy Corbyn’s continued leadership of Labour, because he is a gift to us. At a time when the Labour Party could have made sweeping gains, taking opportunity from my party’s internal divisions and Leadership battle, they are instead making most of the negative news instead.

But – it’s not good for the country to have a feeble opposition. It’s not good for Conservatives not to have a strong opposing voice to keep them on the straight and narrow. And it’s not good for young people to be drawn like the pied piper’s subjects to crazy hard left ideas.

So I’d like to wish Angela Eagle all the best. I hope we end up with Suzanne Evans for UKIP, Angela Eagle for Labour and Andrea Leadsom for the Conservatives. Now that would be a healthy political scene. And we’d see three strong woman leading all of our main parties – without needing any “help” or fiddling of the system for it to occur.

Fingers crossed.

Why We Need Leadsom

Why We Need Leadsom

If you think that the EU Referendum result was the end of the matter, you are wrong.

This argument is far from over.  The REMAINers, as a group rather than individually, still do not accept the result and still fight to turn it around.  This is true both of those undemocratic people who would seek to get another referendum because they did not like the result of the first one, and of those even worse people who are trying to encourage MPs to stitch up the result by various Parliamentary tricks and shenanigans.

For the next decade these people will seek to make everything about that vote.  Well – everything that goes wrong.  Things that go right will be quietly forgotten about.

The vote to Leave the EU was about who makes the decisions in regards to our nation.  Nothing more.  It is entirely possible that a future Government could decide to do everything the EU says forevermore and so there would be no change – but that would be poor decisions on that Government’s part, not a result of the referendum.  Every horror story you might hear could certainly happen, but would be the result of future decisions by our Government rather than a direct result of the referendum.  All the referendum did was signal our desire for our own elected Parliament to make these calls instead of the unelected heads of a power-hungry international superstate.

The most direct danger to BREXit is Theresa May.

Theresa May was for Remain.  Worse than that she is an authoritarian autocrat.  The future decisions about things like what happens to foreign people living here, or our own ex-pats living elsewhere, trading terms, tariffs, international law – these things will be thrashed out by a negotiating team put in place by the new Prime Minister.  An authoritarian Remainer is likely to pack that team with her fellow travellers, her ideological friends.  Having a team of negotiators who are broadly of the Remain side, establishment figures who didn’t want to leave in the first place, would be disastrous.

Andrea Leadsom, as well as being level-headed, clear thinking and financially very astute has one very major bonus.  She was a LEAVEr and has made clear her intention to push hard for a quick resolution.  She is likely to fill her negotiating team not with “yes men” and vested interests, but with people who will genuinely seek the best outcome in keeping with the result of the referendum.  People with the ability to deliver.

A vote for May is, in my opinion, a very bad idea in many, many respects.  I think she would be a dangerous and divisive figure leading the country.  But also it’s a vote to scupper BREXit at this early stage.  Which would lead to the most dire of consequences for the Conservative party and for the nation as a whole.

Gove v Boris

Gove v Boris

Boris Johnson gone, apparently stabbed in the back at the last minute by his fellow Leave campaigner, Michael Gove, in order that Michael Gove can run to be Leader instead?

That’s certainly the view of many, though I don’t think it’s right.

It didn’t take very much attention to hear that Boris was saying some things that sounded a bit off.  It has long been suggested that his campaign for Leave was more about his political ambitions than about his actual political beliefs.  I don’t know if that’s true, but after the historic win for Leave he began to sound very shaky in a number of areas.  Much like Dan Hannan MEP he was starting to talk about retaining the free movement of people that is so loathed by a large portion of the electorate.

I understand why.  When you have a Conservative Liberal mindset, supporting Leave is more about democracy and Parliamentary Supremacy than it is about Immigration.  Free Trade over a closed trading bloc.  I take a similar view to both Boris and Dan Hannan.  But the public’s view is very clearly quite different to ours.

For the public, Immigration was either the number 1 or the number 2 reason for voting Leave – depending on how you view the statistics that have been collected.  Either way, its right up there at the top.

We are at a very delicate stage with national politics.  Years of slimy stories, expenses scandals, and unkept promises have led to public trust in the people they elect being as low as its ever been.  Cynicism is rife and it is damaging our entire political system.

To fail to keep to the result of the referendum would lead to a backlash of incredible proportions.  People would simply not tolerate it.  But some politicians seem to think that the people are stupid.  That they can give lip service to the result of the referendum while using small print to argue their way out of many of the necessary consequences of that decision.

So while the worst politicians are these crazy fools who seem to think we need a “second referendum” (and then, presumably, a third and a fourth and a fifth), or even to try and ignore the result as “not legally binding” in a betrayal of herculean proportions, it is really not very much better to want to change the terms of the debate and try and retain the very aspects of our our membership which so many people are so thoroughly sick of.  It would be a betrayal of the public and a form of constitutional vandalism not seen in decades.

It seems to me that Michael Gove recognises this and that is why, reluctantly, he had to pull away from supporting Boris in the way he did.  It became clear to him that although he was probably set for a great job under the probably new Prime Minister – it wouldn’t result in the Leadership the country needed.  He took a principled and difficult decision to switch his stance at the last minute.  He has been much criticised for it, it will stay with him for a long time, and it will have muddied his relationship with senior members of the party for a very long time.  But he took the decision anyway, because it was the right thing to do.  Although on a much higher and more serious scale, it is a situation I find oddly familiar.  I wish him the best of luck.