Friday, September 29, 2006

Our wicked children

Some days I am afraid to open the newspapers for fear of what I might find. Just two stories from today's Telegraph:
You can be sure that this is by no means the sum total of evil perpretrated in the country yesterday. So many other crimes go unreported everyday. In fact, I am sure that the McDonald's case only made the news because the shooting took place in front of children.

When did we as a society become so wicked? Even our pets are catching the vibe and mauling children left, right, centre. Once upon a time, there were some acts at which even the most violent criminal would draw the line. This is no longer so. Does anyone really believe the muggers would not have harmed that baby if the mother had hesitated to hand over her bag?

The most shocking thing is that these acts are committed, in the main, by teenagers. Some of them would have been no more than nine years old when this Government came into office. These are Blair's babies, the ASBO children begotten as a result of moral relativism and a wrong-headed approach to law and order.

A few years ago, it was a thing of surprise for an eleven year old to be given an ASBO. Now, things have changed. We are no longer surprised to read about a ten year old being given an ASBO and a driving ban, for good measure.

These youngsters are growing up in Britain today without a sense of personal responsibility. When children and teenagers start committing violent crime, it is time to ask ourselves if we have done anything to foster it. Here are some of these Government's policies that may have had something to do with it:
  • violent criminals released without serving anywhere near their full term (lesson for children: crime pays)
  • 'incentive' payments to bribe children to stay on at school (lesson for children: education in itself is not worth bothering with, hence the bribe)
  • explosion in benefit payments, with billions lost through fraud (lesson for children: it pays to cheat the system; the Government is too thick to catch you)
  • reduction in the number of police on patrol (lesson for children: you can do whatever you damn well like, there's nobody out there to enforce the law)
  • erosion of authority from parents and teachers (lesson for children: you are accountable to no-one)
  • a tax and benefits system that penalises married couples (lesson for children: there is nothing to be gained from being a strong family unit)
Is it therefore any surprise that these little angels are now running amok, shooting, stabbing, and mugging to their hearts' content? Until these matters are addressed, we will continue down the bloody path to destruction. On-the spot-fines are not the answer. High-sounding speeches are not the answer. It is time for the Government to stop its meaningless rhetoric on crime and begin to repair the damage to the social fabric.

You are viewing a post on Bel's old site. Click here to find this post on the new site.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Prescott floored by little old lady

Finally, some common sense from somewhere. A court has ruled that John Prescott's house demolition scheme is illegal. The case ended up in court because an old lady refused to take lying down the proposed demolition of her home. Elizabeth Pascoe went to court to challenge the compulsory purchase order and won.

If the CPO had stood, the way would have been clear for the demolition of 500 homes in Liverpool in order to create a route into the city centre. Some other CPOs are in the offing, and it remains to be seen whether the Government will proceed with them.

The Pathfinder scheme is a waste of money. Up to 700,000 homes in the Midlands and the North are targeted for demolition. The project is estimated to cost £1.2bn by 2008. However, knowing this Government, it could very easily exceed that. To date, £500 million has already been spent.

There is no justification for demolition on such a massive scale. The advocates of this plan believe that this is the best course of action to address what they curiously refer to as 'housing market failure'. The properties being knocked down will be replaced with fewer houses, ostensibly to take account of the fact that there are fewer people to occupy them. The lunacy of this plan is even more stark when one considers that this same Government is embarking on a wide-ranging house-building programme in the already crowded South East.

In any case, would it not be cheaper to renovate these properties? The Government has also ignored
advice from English Heritage that renovation would also be environmentally friendlier and better for the social fabric.

As today's case was a test case, any other houses covered by that CPO would benefit from the judgment. I don't expect the Government to appeal the decision. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this scheme wasn't shelved altogether. Prescott's successor, Ruth Kelly, doesn't seem to be burning with fervour towards it. She has already stepped in once to save a row of houses from the demolition truck. I certainly hope that this is the last we hear of Pathfinder.

On a wider point, this case has shown us that it is worthwhile to challenge the Government when they act outside their powers. The old lady who brought the case did not even have to dip into her pocket to fund it. She was given legal aid because there were serious legal issues concerning the scheme that needed to be clarified. We should draw encouragement from today's events. No Government is all-powerful, and from time to time, it falls to the citizens to ensure that they do not exceed their powers. Elizabeth Pascoe did that today, and this blog salutes her.
You are viewing a post on Bel's old site. Click here to find this post on the new site.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Give us our money back

First, education.

Last week, we learnt that standards of education have fallen, despite the Government spending billions extra.

Now, health.

Patricia Hewitt has admitted that the NHS had not improved despite the extra billions the Government have poured into it.

Which department will be the next to confess that they have taken our money and poured it down the drain? More importantly, what is the Opposition doing about this? Isn't it time they began to talk about tax cuts? Apart from a few vague noises here and there, we have heard mostly nothing. Why the half-hearted commitments from the Conservative Party? Of what use of a centre-right party if it will not advocate personal freedom and limited government? At a time when the LibDems no longer fear to talk about a cut in income tax, the Conservative Party should be proclaiming this message, and highlighting Government waste. By now, they should be making the point to the electorate that it is our money being wasted, and that they would like to return a lot more of it to us.

The Opposition must be in a desperate state if the Government can brazenly admit to throwing our money away in this manner, safe in the knowledge that no-one will make a big deal out of it. They have managed this by promoting two ideologies. The first is that public spending necessarily equals better services. The electorate swallowed that in 1997, and are now reaping the (heavily taxed) rewards of their folly. The other was that a cut in tax would reduce public spending. The voting public drew the natural conclusion that tax cuts were incompatible with better public service. Only now is it becoming clear that they were misled. The Conservative Party should be relentless in disproving these two heresies at every opportunity. Why, for example, have I not seen any Party spokesman highlighting the education and health stories mentioned above?

There is also a third, sinister, and altogether more dangerous ideology at work. Implicit in the grossly immoral waste of taxpayers' funds is the belief that the Government knows better than us what to do with our money. It is evident they would rather waste the money than return it to its owners. In other words, even when the Government wastes taxpayers' funds, it has been put to a higher, nobler purpose than anything an individual could have done with it. This is morally wrong, and the Conservative Party must begin urgently to dismantle that ideology.

At the moment, it seems that nobody is accountable to the taxpayer. Abandoned IT projects, overpaid tax credits, surrendered EU rebates, we read these stories every day. This cannot be allowed to go on much longer. We need an alternative policy platform to high-tax and high-spend. Until the Conservative Party begins to offer one, I am not interested in anything they have to say.
You are viewing a post on Bel's old site. Click here to find this post on the new site.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Onward, British soldiers

Des Brown, the Secretary of State for Defence, has admitted that they had 'underestimated' the Taliban when preparing to send British soldiers to Afghanistan.

In other words, they did not properly assess the situation, and because of this error, British soldiers lie dead in their graves.

This is outrageous. There is no excuse under the sun for this grievous miscalculation. Before the deployment had even taken place, warnings were sounded about the dangers of sending troops to Helmand.

The Taliban greeted the news of the arriving troops with relish. Surely, that should have induced wariness in even the most gung-ho Prime Minister. They gleefully reminded us of the 1880 Battle of Maiwand (not far from Helmand), where an entire British regiment was almost wiped out by the Afghans. Who can forget the words of Mullah Razayar Noorzai, when he warned us a few months ago:
"We have already prepared 600 suicide bombers alone for the Helmand, and you'll see that we will turn it into their graveyard."
A few months before that, another Afghan warlord had warned:
"We thought that it (ie the war) would be between us and the US, but it looks like souls of the British buried in the Helmand after they were killed by the Afghan warriors in the 19th century may be feeling bored. ... Now they are calling their grandchildren to be reunited with them in hell."
This was not just idle boasting. It was sufficient enough to cause worry in many quarters. We were sending soldiers to do peacetime duties, while their reluctant 'hosts' were threatening war.

The then Defence Secretary, John Reid, was criminally deluded about the risks of being in Afghanistan. Apparently, the soldiers were going there to help out in reconstruction and the effort to curb drug production. John Reid
talked about leaving in three years 'without firing a shot'. Such naivete would only be touching if demonstrated by a twelve year old schoolgirl. Did he really think that the Taliban would sit back and watch the soldiers as they went around town 'reconstructing' the place? Did he really think the Taliban would give up poppy-control without a fight? At the very least, we should be calling for the head of John Reid, but he has since been promoted to the Home Office. Congratulations, sir.

I can understand, to some degree, if the Government chose not to listen to the warnings from the Taliban. However, concerns were also raised about the difficult terrain of the Helmand, which obviously favoured the native Taliban. These were dismissed with typical careless arrogance.

This Government has shown over time that it has little or no regard for the lives of its soldiers. Daily we read about soldiers being sent into battle without protective gear. Sometimes, their equipment is faulty, and downright dangerous. Even when, against all odds, they survive the heat of battle and return home, they may yet find themselves facing charges of war crimes. Now we hear that even an objective assessment of the risks of battle is beyond the capabilities of this Government. This is truly shocking, but sadly, not surprising. Though the Taliban may wield the weapon, many soldiers are dead today because of the Government.
You are viewing a post on Bel's old site. Click here to find this post on the new site.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Benedict leaves them ranting

Another day of islamolunacy.

Just as well the Byzantine emperor who was quoted by the Pope has been dead for seven centuries. Who knows what would have become of him in the current climate?

Throughout the day, the news programmes have featured one incensed muslim after another, lining up to denounce the Pope. The last straw for me was the shrill-sounding Baroness Uddin. (Never mind all this, what I'd like to know is how she got into the House of Lords. My background reading reveals nothing exceptional as to qualify her for a title. If she could enlighten me as to her public service record, I would be grateful.)

I wonder which journalist will be brave enough to point out to these shrieking sheikhs (and Uddin) that the fist-shaking, effigy-burning, threats-spewing actions of their brother muslims are simply confirming the offending remarks over and over. As John East asked in the comments to my last post, don't these people get irony?

Apparently not.

To the charge of lacking irony, add those of illiteracy and ignorance. If they had troubled to read the Pope's speech in the first place, they would have seen that this is just a lot of fuss over nothing. But the thing is, the real problem is not the speech. The real problem is Christianity and western values. This was simply another opportunity to attack those values, and by Allah, they were damned if they were going to miss it.

Meanwhile, the Pope has expressed his regret that 'some passages of his speech may have sounded offensive to the sensibilities of some muslim believers'.

How is that for an apology? Obviously he felt he had to say something, but does not feel the need to apologise. My own preference was for him to stick the Catholic equivalent of two fingers at the mad mullahs, but I can live with this 'non-apology'. I am liking this Benedict fellow more and more each day.
You are viewing a post on Bel's old site. Click here to find this post on the new site.


Friday, September 15, 2006

The Pope vs Mohammed

The Pope is in hot water with muslims worldwide.

His 'crime' was to quote in a speech certain remarks critical of Islam. He did make clear that this was merely a quotation, but because he didn't expressly condemn the remarks, there is outrage among muslims everywhere. The scenes are now so familiar: angry men waving placards, effigies burning, and threats aplenty. The only thing missing (so far) is a call to behead him.

Ahmed Versi of Muslim News has just been on Sky News saying that there will also be demonstrations in London. Why? What has it to do with us here? Is this just another attempt by islamofascists to bully us into their way of thinking?

Even if the Pope believed that all that Mohammed brought was 'evil' and 'inhuman', surely he has the right to say so? God knows I have heard worse things from muslim leaders about Christianity.

The Pope is being called on to apologise. The Vatican has already issued a statement saying that he meant no offence. Clearly that is not enough for the likes of Ahmed Versi. He wants the Pope to come out publicly and repudiate the comments. Why should he? Perhaps the Pope does actually believe the comments. If so, he is most definitely not alone. Islam has not shown itself to be the 'religion of peace'; certainly not in my lifetime. Although many may balk at saying so, the offending quotation does not seem entirely out of place when one considers current world events. Even the way the islamists are reacting shows that these comments may not be that far from the truth. Perhaps the protesters might like to think on that.

Islamofascism has crept into almost every part of society. It is unrelenting in seeking to impose its 'values' on Western society. We see its effects in law enforcement, the education system, the human rights regime, and almost every other area you care to name. Thankfully, it has not yet subsumed other religions. This latest agitation is nothing but an attempt to assert some form of thought supremacy over Christianity. It must be resisted. Benedict XVI must not apologise.

You are viewing a post on Bel's old site. Click here to find this post on the new site.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Harriet Harman on Gordon Brown

On Sky News at 6.35pm.

He has been a great Chancellor, and if any other country could
have him by transfer, the way footballers are transferred, they
would have done so.

If only.
You are viewing a post on Bel's old site. Click here to find this post on the new site.


Clare facing a whipping

Clare Short is facing expulsion from the Labour Party for her latest outburst. After announcing that she would not be defending her Birmingham Ladywood seat as a Labour MP at the next election, she denounced Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and for good measure, David Cameron. Nor was that all. She declared that a hung Parliament might be the best thing for the country, and she would work towards ensuring that.

The Chief Whip is threatening fire and brimstone, but something tells me that Clare Short will not be that bothered. She may well return as an independent MP, and being expelled from the Labour party can only be good for her campaign. Look what that did for Red Ken in 2000. In addition, Labour is so thoroughly discredited in the eyes of the voters, that such a public parting of ways will not harm her in the least.

She should have done it a long time ago, though. Now it looks opportunistic, but isn't that the way with politics?
You are viewing a post on Bel's old site. Click here to find this post on the new site.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Blair on prisons

TUC conference. A prison officer raises the issue of prisons with Tony Blair. He asks why the number of prison places has increased since Labour came to power. I would have thought the answer to that was glaringly obvious, but let that pass. He then attacks Blair for increasing the role of the private sector, accusing him of 'putting people in prison for profit'. Ludicrous. Anyway, Blair rises to answer to that charge. The reason the number of prison places has increased is ... then he stops short. He stutters. He pauses. He lowers his eyes to the floor. How to explain that the increase is due to rising crime rates under his Government? Finally, he hits upon a face-saving form of words: the increase in prison places is due to the rising number of sentences being passed.

A half-hearted confession, but a confession, nonetheless.

By the way, for more on prisons, don't forget to check out the excellent PrisonWorks initiative.
You are viewing a post on Bel's old site. Click here to find this post on the new site.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Our untouchable yobs

This story from the Telegraph. Donna Appleyard lives in Yorkshire. She was plagued by yobs for many months. She called the police on several occasions, but no one came round to investigate. Perhaps they were busy with other priorities in the area. Crime rates in the UK are, after all, rising. One can understand if the police are too busy concentrating on murders, rapes and 'honour' killings to deal with a little ASBO-thuggery. Anyway, exasperated beyond all measure, she finally pleaded with the miscreants, telling them to 'please fuck off'. Imagine her shock when police arrived to fine her for her outburst. She, not unreasonably, refused to pay the £80 fixed penalty, and is now facing the option of either an increased fine or a jail term.

You are viewing a post on Bel's old site. Click here to find this post on the new site.


Friday, September 08, 2006

ConservativeHome report

Over at ConservativeHome, a very interesting report on the bloated public sector. This 145 page document, entitled 'The Machinery of Government (And How To Reform It)' exposes the true level of waste. Not only that, it examines the root causes of the problem and gives recommendations for reform. The author, William Norton, worked for the James Review, so he knows what he is talking about. I will read the document in full, and give my views both here and at ConservativeHome.
You are viewing a post on Bel's old site. Click here to find this post on the new site.


Know your local crooks

An interesting story in the Telegraph. Merseyside police employed statisticians to produce a list of its most prolific criminals, as well as the crimes they are most likely to commit. The report showed that some crimes are more likely to be committed by people with particular names. All very well, I think. It's always good to see a police force occupying itself with the prevention and detection of crime. Goodness knows that doesn't happen enough these days.

Somehow, the report leaked. The Telegraph reports that:
"the area's top 10 bad boys are named, in order, James, Michael, John, Paul, Stephen, Anthony, David, Thomas, Lee and Christopher.

Women most likely to find themselves in the cells are those called Lisa, Paula, Samantha, Natalie, Emma, Nadine, Sarah, Claire, Gaynor and Kelly."

Apparently, women called Lisa rate highly in the domestic violence stakes. And I howled with laughter on reading that Dionne is the most popular name for a fraudster.

I wonder what the results would look like if my local Lewisham Borough police were to carry out such a survey. Anyway, I would much rather they didn't just now. I have just looked at their website, and the 'News' items are enough to make one barricade the doors and never again set foot outside. Far better that they spend their time patrolling the streets on our behalf.

You are viewing a post on Bel's old site. Click here to find this post on the new site.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

I shouldn't laugh, but ...

I am finding the events of the last few days wonderfully hilarious.

I know, I should be thinking of the nation, and how this crisis engulfing the Labour Party is bad for the country. I should be making the point here that this is a far more serious matter than party politics.

Maybe another day.

For today, though, I am having the time of my life. In particular, I have had much mirth over this article over at The Devil's Kitchen. Am I glad to be a Tory in 2006.
You are viewing a post on Bel's old site. Click here to find this post on the new site.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Let the voters decide

If there is a leadership contest after Tony Blair goes, the winner will be chosen by Labour party MPs, members and the unions. Blair's successor is most likely to be Gordon Brown. He obviously has no problem entering 10 Downing Street by the back door. He should, however, remember that the British public gave Tony Blair's government a mandate for a full third term. I hope he will have the decency, if not the courage, to call a snap General Election. That would be the only way to gain legitimacy for his Government.
You are viewing a post on Bel's old site. Click here to find this post on the new site.


Tom Watson lives a full life

First sentence in Tom Watson's letter of resignation to Tony Blair.

'The Labour Party has been my life since I was 15 years old.'

Really? I shudder.
You are viewing a post on Bel's old site. Click here to find this post on the new site.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Farewell festivities for Our Dear Leader

Today we are greeted with the side-splitting news of a memo drafted by Tony Blair's advisers setting out his exit plans. Part of his whirlwind farewell tour will include jolly japes with the Blue Peter crew and some pious posturing on Songs of Praise. Thanks to Iain Dale typing up the memo, I am now up to speed with Our Dear Leader's exit plans.

Yet again, I have cause to marvel at the shamelessness and total lack of self-awareness of Blair and his people.

Two sentences stand out for me:
"He needs to go with the crowds wanting more. He should be the star who won't even play that last encore."
Not bloody likely now, this scenario. Not when we have former lackeys like Chris Bryant calling for his departure.

Then, of course, there is the classic line:
"His genuine legacy is not the delivery, important though that is, but the dominance of New Labour ideas ... the triumph of Blairism."
One sentence that properly encapsulates everything we know about this shabby, discredited Government and its charlatan leader.
You are viewing a post on Bel's old site. Click here to find this post on the new site.


But what about tax cuts?

In my last post, I asked if we could trust the Conservatives to deliver us from the burden of heavy taxation. Today, one of the party's policy review groups makes an 'unambiguous commitment' to an increase in spending on public services.

I suppose I have my answer right there.

Will the shadow Cabinet endorse this proposal? Fingers crossed good economic sense will prevail.

You are viewing a post on Bel's old site. Click here to find this post on the new site.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Deliver us from heavy taxation

Janet Daley in the Telegraph writing about the unfairness of inheritance tax.

She highlights the story of the two sisters in their 80s, who are suing the Government for unfair discrimination. Had they been lesbians in a civil partnership, they would have been able to leave their assets to each other, free of inheritance tax. However, because they are sisters, the surviving sister will face an inheritance tax bill of 40 per cent on anything above the exemption threshold.

This story has been covered elsewhere, so I won't repeat the clear arguments in favour of abolishing this iniquitous tax.

Voices are being raised everywhere on the subject of tax. In the past week, we have had no fewer than five news stories on tax, specifically tax cuts. We are suffering under the increasing tax burden, and the Government has clamped its hands over its ears. Not surprising. This Government does not listen. We know that.

But what about the Opposition? George Osborne has spoken about abolishing stamp duty on shares and raising more green taxes to compensate for a cut in direct taxes. We know that policy detail is still some way off in the future, but could we at least get some reassurance that they have heard the cries of the British people. We need someone to give us hope that this burden will be lightened considerably. Who will deliver us from this grievous yoke? Is it too much to hope that the Conservatives can do this?
You are viewing a post on Bel's old site. Click here to find this post on the new site.


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Bel's got a Bluetorch blog!

This blog has been revamped by those good folk over at Bluetorch Solutions.

I wanted a simple, minimalist look, and I was getting fed up with all the restrictions imposed by Blogger templates. Now, not only have I got a new template, Bluetorch will also take care of maintenance, updating, and any technical questions.

If you want a fresh new look for your blog, speak to Bluetorch.
You are viewing a post on Bel's old site. Click here to find this post on the new site.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Time for the truth about the NHS

An interesting story in the Daily Telegraph today.

A poll commissioned by the Institute for Public Policy Research has found that the public expects too much from the NHS.

Frankly, they could have saved their money. I could have told them that for nothing.

The truth is, this all-encompassing 'cradle-to-grave' treatment expected by the public cannot be provided out of general taxation. The demands are too great to be borne by a publicly funded health service.

Think about it. Hardly a month goes by without legal action being commenced against some Primary Care Trust for refusing to provide some wonder drug or other. We have just had the Herceptin wars. Then there are all the policy acrobatics being performed by trusts as they try to decide how to spend their limited resources, excluding certain groups from treatment for the most fatuous reasons.

But whose fault is it that we expect heaven and earth from the NHS? Is it not that of the politicians, who come to us every five years promising a 'world class health service'? And in-between election years, the Government spends its time cooking up one initiative or the other, all designed to deceive the electorate that things are indeed getting better. In 2002, the national insurance contributions rate was increased by Gordon Brown. This was to pay for the NHS, we were told. Having forked out the money, is it not reasonable to wonder why things have not improved? Where has all the money gone?

The Opposition is no better. Rather than tell us that our expectations are unreasonable, they perpetuate the deceit by promising what they cannot deliver. This is why David Cameron's decision in January 2006 to abandon the Patient's Passport is such a great shame. That policy was the first step in admitting that there are limits to the NHS. It could have been the starting point in determining what the NHS can reasonably be expected to deliver. He has also ruled out any plans to offer tax relief on medical insurance premiums. Why the timidity? Perhaps it was the fear that Labour would have seized the chance to paint the Conservatives as wanting to destroy the NHS. That charge is enough to paralyse any politician. It is, however, a dishonest charge, and as long as it remains a tool of political warfare, the NHS will stay as it is. This benefits nobody, not least the longsuffering patients.

Until politicians start being honest about the true state of the NHS, we will continue to be heavily disappointed in our expectations.
You are viewing a post on Bel's old site. Click here to find this post on the new site.