Monday, 24 June 2013

wish I'd said that

When the government talks of “ring-fenced” spending, it is referring to health, education and aid. But, in effect, the protective cordon extends well beyond these areas. According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, despite forecasts of higher employment and lower unemployment between now and 2017-18, social security spending – in cash terms – is not coming down. Neither is Britain’s interest bill, as it would be unthinkable to default on our sovereign debt (currently £1.3 trillion and rising).

Add up all the “untouchable” expenditure – social protection (£220 billion), health (£137 billion), education (£97 billion), debt interest (£51 billion) and international aid (£11 billion) – and £516 billion of the Chancellor’s annual outlay of £720 billion is hermetically sealed. Thus, if he is to make a dent in his £108 billion deficit, i.e. the annual difference between tax receipts and state spending, he has only £204 billion to shoot at. This, given the constraints of political realities, is a mathematical impossibility. It simply cannot and will not be done.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Lord oh Lords

I think it has been said that the cure for admiring the House of Lords is to go and see it in action.  Watching the debate on same sex marriage on BBC Parliament can be just as effective.   What a shame that the debate on Lords reform took place before the this debate.

I've never understood why anyone should be concerned about anyone else being Gay or Lesbian.  Listening to the odd views of various members of the House of Lords was quite scary in the parade of irrational and illogical prejudice, feeble arguments and fear mongering.  Of course people are entitled to their views, I am sure I have held wrong, idiotic and silly views myself and still do - but the level of debate in the Lords was really quite depressing.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

No one wants a referendum on EU membership - so lets give them one

Get opinion pollsters to ask people if they want a referendum on UK membership of the EU and they will say yes, by an overwhelming majority. In fact ask them if they want a referendum on almost any issue and they will say yes by an overwhelming majority.

UK Polling Report - run by Anthony Wells, probably the most respected talker of sense on opinion polls  (well he ought to be!) has only discovered one subject where more people didn't want a referendum than did want a referendum, and that was on whether the UK Monarchy should continue.  His conclusion was that people were so sure they did want to keep the Queen they didn't want a referendum.

So who really wants a referendum on UK membership of the EU ? No one. People who want to leave the EU don't really want a referendum, they want top leave the EU. poeple who wnat to stya in the EU have no incentive to hold a referendum they could lose.

It is usually argued that people don't have a choice at elections time because all the main parties support staying in the EU.  Actually, people do have a choice, If you want the UK to leave the EU all you have to do is vote for one of the minor parties that wish the UK to leave.  The every fact that all three main parties want the UK to remain in the EU should tell people something important. It's not that all the parties are the same, but despite their differences they all think the UK is better off in.   In fact as the EU has grown more and more countries have joined or want to get in - only one has left - Greenland ?  Well, you get the idea if it was such a terrible thing why would so  many parties in so many countries want their country to be members ?   It's because unlike the public, they engage with the EU and understand it a lot better. They don't get their information about the EU from the Daily Mail, well if they do, they can check it and find out that there are more myths about the EU than about the Gods of ancient Greece and Rome. 

It is sometimes argued referendum resolve issues, one way or the other. This is rarely true - the losing side is rarely content to accept the verdict and usually pushes for another vote.  In 1983 Labour advocated leaving the ECC (as it was)  soon the Conservatives might be led by a leader advocating exit - but everyone would do well to remember that leaving the EU is not a magic wand.  Anyway - despite being on the whole opposed to referendums, because so many politicians have promised referendums on the EU and then wriggled out of their commitments - they electors deserve a referendum. I hope we can vote to stay in and get on with deciding what sort of EU we want.

Crime in the UK in WWII

An underworld at war - spivs deserters, racketeers and civilians in the second world war by Donald Thomas  ISBN 0-7197-5732-1

This is a fascinating book - if a little over long about crime in the UK in World War 2.  While there was undoubtedly a lot of sacrifices made by many people, other saw the war as an opportunity or reason to turn to crime.

Theft and fraud make up the biggest amount of crime - be it stealing or forging ration books, whole lorry loads of supplies disappearing or fraudulent claims for work or wages.

It is informative to find out how the Government tried to counter crime and how some relatively trivial matters were punished harshly while some more serious ones

Often the stories are almost incredible. In 1941 a Liverpool ship repairer cheated the Government out of £20 million (at today's prices).  Soliders and others would steal equipment needed for the war effort. 

Of course these are just the records of the crimes that were recorded, no doubt there were many more that weren't recorded.

Private Walker from the TV series Dads Army is most peoples idea of a spiv - before that there was Arthur English (are you being served) and Sid Field and a host of others who played to audiences who new spivs not just from 6 years of war but the years of rationing the continued after 1945.   This book shines a light on those that make Walker look like a boy scout.

After a while the accounts seems to blur and a few more statistics and a few less examples would have been a good idea, however for a topic that has been overlooked, it is a good read.

Meat is a treat ?

It was interesting to see a committee of MPs suggest that meat ought to be a treat and that we would all benefit if the amount of meat eating was reduced.

I took this view many years ago and became a vegetarian.

What always puzzles me is the requirement some people feel to 'jazz up' vegetarian food to make it 'less boring' - this usually involves asking a clutch of non-vegetarian chefs to come up with dishes they wouldn't normally make using ingredients they wouldn't normally use.  Few things can be thought more likely to put someone off becoming a vegetarian than the instruction to tramp around health food shops and delis looking for silken tofu, artichoke hearts, beetroot essence and pink Himalayan salt crystals. It's enough to make you go home and eat beans on toast in protest. And there perhaps is the point - beans on toast is a perfectly acceptable vegetarian meal.

So many vegetarian dishes are incredibly versatile.  Vegetarian Curry can be made with an endless list of vegetables, beans, lentils and pulses. The choice of different veggie burgers or vegetarian sausage is huge.  Pasta, potato and rice lend themselves to vegetarian food in a way that conjours so many meals.

There are more cheeses available than for many years.

So if you want a vegetarian meal - first think of the ones you have already and then ask a vegetarian.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

RIP Tom Sharpe

I will always be grateful to Tom Sharpe for his "Wilt" books and 'Indecent Exposure' which brought me many many laugh out loud moments.