Friday, 23 August 2013

Weekly Political Digest – 23 August 2013

It has been another busy week, even though we are in the summer holiday period which traditionally tends to be quiet on the political front. Not this year, though. Even Hopi Sen has realised this; and if you have the time to read a lengthy piece on Labour's current difficulties then follow this link, and I recommend that you also check out the more insightful comments below it...


Snowden, Miranda and Greenwald

The biggest news this week was almost certainly the detention of David Miranda for carrying what is described as 'potentially sensitive information' from one of Edward Snowden's contacts to journalist colleague and domestic 'partner' Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian – which publication had paid for Miranda's flight, by the way.

In what has turned out to be a more complex scenario, with several twists and turns along the way, even those who initially had their doubts and concerns about that long detention (the legal maximum of nine hours without charge, as the information could not be decrypted in order to verify its nature within that time period) have changed their tune. This from Louise Mensch is particularly useful as it goes into very careful (if somewhat repetitive) detail; and Dan Hodges has faced up to the Guardianistas who seem to have taken a rather bizarre approach to what transpired.

My own thoughts are that there is still too much we don't really know, and no doubt much that we'll never have in the public domain; but the security of the nation is paramount. Provided it is a genuine case, as this strongly appears to have been, and not just an excuse to apply draconian measures inappropriately as some had liked to imagine, then dealing with the data and any known copies of it, in the way that has been described (including destroying computer hard drives at The Guardian's offices) is obviously entirely justified. Imagine what could have happened otherwise.

Of course, there are no doubt other copies still out there somewhere, and it is quite possible that one way or another some inimical force or other will one day find out from one such copy whatever is needed to severely harm our nation. Perhaps (as has been strongly hinted by Glenn Greenwald himself) this will be facilitated by The Guardian.

I wonder if that will make its readers happy. After all, they are mostly Lefties, and as we know, Lefties support those who seek to destroy our nation and its culture from within, whether via the Fabian route or the more revolutionary Marxist (e.g. Frankfurt School) route.


I Kid You Not

One of the topics I have touched upon over the years has been early indoctrination. As the Jesuit Fathers knew, and from whom came the saying about this very subject, those first few years in particular are the time an organisation with its own agenda can imprint its views more or less permanently. It is why I have always been wary of early years intervention by the State or any of its agencies, despite the 'sales pitch' and the convenience of changing domestic patterns in Britain during recent decades

The following few years should not be neglected by those with such an outlook, especially when they are no longer pulling the strings of national government and the next batch of children might no longer be so compliant. This to me seems to be why the UNITE Union (interesting that it is the McCluskey outfit!) has created what might be called a 'child activism and propaganda' website, as Guido briefly describes. He rightly calls it 'creepy'...

This is an ominous development; and the first thing any parent should do is block it from access by their child's computer (the so-called Parental Controls) but how the mentioned videos can be prevented from being shown, or Union representatives going into schools, is less easy.

Parents will need to watch this very carefully, watching for signs that it is happening at their child's school and lobbying school governors to do what they can to stop it happening in the first place. Governor's don't have the power to control the curriculum or the nuts and bolts of teaching, and rightly – that's the Head Teacher and his/her management team's job – but the governors will have a good idea of that team's and the Head's outlook and methodologies. The more laterally thinking (and right minded) ones will no doubt find a way to deal with any such move.


Looking Back to May 2010

This from Mike Smithson is very telling, and really puts the final nail in the coffin of the idea that David Cameron could have gone for a Conservative minority government. Although one might think that, as the party with the greatest number of MPs back in May 2010 they could have just gone ahead, the telling line is that James (a..k.a. Gordon) Brown was under no obligation to go to the Palace.

Whether or not that should remain constitutionally or be changed to prevent minority incumbencies to cling to power in the face of a democratic defeat for them is an interesting debate that perhaps should be had anew; but the result was that, as explained at the above link, at the time there was no realistic way that Cameron could form a minority government. Personally, I'd have preferred it as well, but it was never going to happen.

On the other hand, as Iain Martin points out, Cameron and Co should be going flat out for an overall majority in 2015, not planning for another coalition. That was then, this is now and looking forward not back.


Shale of the Century

This century sees the advent of shale gas mining in this country, and we should all be glad of it as it will help to keep the lights on in the aftermath of a long period without a proper energy policy. It's more complex than that, of course, but shale gas will be a real boon to us here in Britain. Not that this stops the Lefties protesting and indeed shouting about it, trying to undermine it all on some manufactured and/or exaggerated pretext.

Yorkie at The Commentator does a fairly thorough job of taking the lid off the Left's game, including the later news that Green MP Caroline Lucas has managed to get herself arrested at a so-called 'anti-fracking' protest (almost certainly deliberate, with the primary aim of getting herself some publicity).

It is well worth going through what is a fairly short piece, especially noting the use of the totalitarians' favourite techniques such as declaring that only their own views count and accusing any government that takes note of other views as being 'anti-democratic', 'not listening', or some such. This again demonstrates the inherent dishonesty off Lefty outfits, and they are all like that and probably always have been. Lying, manipulative, totalitarian by nature: all of 'em!

Well, if they don't like what's happening to our country (not really theirs is it?) then perhaps they might be happier living in a Socialist/Communist country instead. They are no benefit to Britain, so they might as well get out. That would also help with the burgeoning overcrowding in this small island, and by getting rid of the dross the overall quality will rise too.


On The House

Okay, houses and housing in general. There are, as one might expect, a whole range of claims and counter-claims being made about Britain's housing situation, from the numbers being built year by year to the controversial new Help to Buy equity loan scheme.

It looks like the latter is starting to achieve its headline outcome, which is a positive sign, at least if taken in isolation. The effect on house prices over time is likely to be less helpful to the buying public; but of course the scheme could be modified or even withdrawn at a later date, before that has had a chance to bite too hard. I don't know this will play out, but am aware of legitimate concerns about the scheme, so it one to watch quite closely over the months and (perhaps, if it lasts that long) years ahead.

Meanwhile, the numbers of residences being built remains a thorny question; and FullFact has had a go at looking into this. Their main angle is on the claim that planning consent has been granted for some 400,000 residences that have yet to be built. I am cautious about their treatment, including the somewhat selective graph that shows only the period of the Coalition Government so has no broader context.

I know from my own time on the local Council – when we were also very much aware of what was happening in other places as well as our own – just how much of a house-building slump there had been before the change of national government. The dip for a few months more recently, while significant, looks worse than it really is, and which that longer-term context should (if the data are accurate) have shown.

We knew back in those years what was happening nationally as well as locally – though we here in medway have tended to buck this trend somewhat and have more building going on and achieved than many other places, including elsewhere in Kent.

Indeed, we even have more so-called 'affordable homes' than neighbouring/nearby Local Authority areas whose specifications call for a higher percentage of such homes. For example, our ten percent has resulted in many more such places actually coming into being than others' 25%, where little has actually been provided. Delivery is much more important than posturing...

Back to FullFact: the actual numbers each year are quite impressive, especially in the present climate. The question of whether there even ought to be a need for all these extra homes on the small and increasingly crowded island is a separate (though obviously related) issue; but although the demand ought to slow over the next decade, for now it needs to be satisfied.

Obviously developers weren't going to build when that very climate meant that few could afford to buy them, however 'affordable' some of them (subsidised by the other properties and from the public purse) were in practice. This is why the whole previous decade's figures are so important in setting context, as it becomes easy to spot when things turned downward and what must have driven that. Anyway, with a little intelligence one can glean enough from that analysis to realise what is actually going on, and it is quite good.


Labour On Back Foot

Labour's ongoing policy woes (largely through a lack of any real policies) are being added to by the loss of dominance on key issues such the economy and even in areas thought 'safe' for them, such as the National Health Service (NHS).

Regarding the latter, Simon Heffer has, in a return to a more sensible outlook than he has tended to exhibit in the last few years, does a thorough job of showing how, as he puts it, Labour has lost the moral high ground on the NHS. It is a good piece, and I have little quibble with any of it – which is the first time I have been able to say that about a Heffer contribution in a long time.

I have been sitting on this one for a few weeks, awaiting the fallout from the Keogh report, and it looks as though nothing has materially changed in the weeks from then until now. The article looks lengthy, but it isn't: there are several large photographs embedded within in. The opening few paragraphs tell most of the story in a nutshell, including a list of just some of the issues that are of concern to us all, as users of the NHS and paying for it in our taxes. Especially for anyone wearing the proverbial rose-tinted spectacles when it comes to the NHS, I urge you to read the whole piece, which will probably take around twelve minutes.

When it comes to the economy, Labour still have no credible or consistent stance, and are continuing to struggle to find one. They have essentially silent on the whole issue for several weeks now; and their gloom-and-doom merchants have received a further blow with this week's slow-but-positive economic indicators, which are turning out to be better than was previously forecase.

It's still small beer, but this careful policy has resulted in a general upward trens during the coalition years, which is an understandable way to proceed. Personally, and as I have written before, it has been my belief that it could have a notch or two higher for the past year or so without significantly risking a catastrophe – but I don't have all the inside information, so perhaps the Chancellor has been right in his approach all along.

Even if not a hundred percent optimum, it has certainly been close to that ideal, as most independent organisations in the field have acknowledged, most or all of the the time. Even the credit down-rating (unavoidable in the global situation, especially as we are essentially a trading nation) was fractional, and so much less than in many other countries that one might have thought were stronger than us.


Airport Bias?

This is an interesting development regarding the Rochester Airport plans. A local resident here has formally complained to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) over the leaflet about the plans that has been distributed locally, and which he claims is misleading and biased in favour of the airport. Unfortunately I don't have a copy of the leaflet myself; but I'd probably prefer not to comment while the complaint was being looked into by the ASA.

For myself, I can state that we on the airport Consultative Committee put a lot of thought into the ideas that culminated (somewhat belatedly) in the formal proposal. As I have already explained on this 'blog in recent weeks, the paved runway enables earlier take-off so that the craft will have climbed much further than at present by the time it passes over the nearest residential areas.

My estimate is for a ten-fold reduction in sound at ground level, not an increase. That simple Applied Mathematics, routine A-Level stuff: I know, as I studied for that qualification myself...

As for the new generation of mini-jets: they are actually quieter than propeller-type craft, as other small airports can attest, so there's no worry there. I suspect warped agendas are at work here, as is so often the case, and the 'hyper alarmism' that was mentioned in at least one of the linked articles from earlier in this post as being a standard tool of the Left, who are behind this as they have been all along.

I certainly have confidence, as perhaps the community's best advocate and representative in Medway for many years; and again there are similar situations elsewhere in the country, including in much more 'sensitive' locations than ours that – despite initial (uninformed) concerns – turned out to be cases of "What was all the fuss about?"

Fairoaks Airport in Surrey is perhaps the ultimate example of that phenomenon; and who opposing the Rochester Airport plans feels able to challenge that now well-established parallel development in leafy Surrey of all places? Money -> mouth...


Close to Home

Here in the county of Kent, as elsewhere in Britain, councils often have to resort to court proceedings to ensure the payment of due Council Tax. This inevitably results in cases where bailiffs have to go in. Note that all this is caused by people's actions in not paying their dues. These are very often (though of course not always, by any means) those living a fairly grand lifestyle, often subsidised from the public purse.

Anyone who has been in the debt-collecting business (and I know a couple) will tell you what they discover when calling at debtors' homes. One typical case was of someone owing thousands of Pounds to a bank, who 'had no money' and was paying the debt back at a rate that would take decades to fully repay, yet during the early stages of that (weekly) collection period, suddenly there was an expensive new car replacing the older one that had been there previously. Was it a visitor? No: it remained there as the only vehicle at that address.

Anyway, reported in our local newspaper is the number of instances of teach council where bailiffs came into the picture. Although I don't think Medway was even included in the survey, they probably aren't in the top few so I doubt would have been mentioned in any case.

This is an awkward one for opposition politicians on the councils, mostly Labour and a few Lib Dems and perhaps the odd Independent, as they are so vociferous about Council Tax collection rates and the amounts of total arrears. They can hardly start taking the side of the 'poor resident', especially when they know that there are some of us who have whole strings of anecdotes in similar vein to the example I cited above that show that many of them are not (literally) 'poor' at all.

Not that this has kept them quiet when it comes to what they still erroneously term 'the bedroom tax' and supposedly 'evictions' of those caught in having their benefit hand-ours corrected to where they should have been all along. This is the usual Labour bandwaggon-jumping, as it has been from the outset, and as usual for them an attempt to sweep under the carpet their own earlier piloting of exactly the same policy some twelve . Here's the evidence of that...

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