Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Canal footpath improvement welcome, but more is needed

The council's announcement heralds an improvement to the walking at the lower end of the Neath Canal, but when will we see the completion of the missing link between Abergarwed and Resolven? I see that the then leader Derek Vaughan was looking at EU funding back in 2007. Now that he is an established MEP, perhaps he could use his influence to kickstart the process.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Billie Whitelaw

I first noticed Billie Whitelaw on TV in the 1959 production Alun Owen's play. I suppose it was natural to cast as a judy an actress born in Coventry and brought up in Yorkshire, because all the Liverpudlian actresses would have learned to talk posh and moved down south at that time. (Julie Walters - born Birmingham - later talked scouse for Alan Bleasdale.)  Perhaps I was at an impressionable age, but she certainly made an impact. None of the obituaries I have seen or heard mentioned her rĂ´le in Lime Street, but I found from the rest of her c.v. on IMDb to discover that she had been around for some time - including a spell as Jack Warner's daughter in Dixon of Dock Green before Jeanette Hutchinson took over.

There was one other thing the obits. did not reveal: the reason for her unusual first name. I assume it came from the admiration on the part of one or both of her parents for Billie Dove, a Hollywood superstar before the talkies took over.

I thought she would go on for ever. She will be missed not only for her screen and stage presence but also for her directness and frankness in interviews, qualities all too rare in today's PR-coached generation.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Kill the intellectuals

With reference to yesterday's post, there is one respect in which the most recent genocides differ from those of the 20th century. Along with the ideological drivers, the regimes of Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot and a few others mobilised a visceral hatred of intellectualism.

Stalin eliminated swathes of writers and artists. Composers escaped with their lives, possibly because Stalin enjoyed music, but were much circumscribed. Jews in lands which came under Hitler's sway certainly suffered because of traditional racism but also, I would suggest, because they were the culture-bearers in those nations. Pol Pot, of course, singled out intellectuals specifically for "re-education".

Having written the above, it has just occurred to me that the latest genocide took place in a school.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Entanglement - separation - tolerance - dogma

Just over eighty years ago, piqued by Rutherford's dogmatic statement that nuclear energy would never become real, Leo Szilard realised the principle of the chain reaction. He patented his discovery, but assigned the patent to the British Admiralty so that, with war threatening, it be kept secret.

I was reminded of this, and by the dreadful coincidence that the rise and fall of Nazism and the big developments in nuclear physics marched in step, by viewing the segment of Jacob Bronowski's Ascent of Man entitled Knowledge or Certainty. I turned back to the Bronowski with Jim al-Khalili's two-part series on quantum physics fresh in my mind, mainly to see how the presentation of information compared. As I had guessed, I found that for all the increased sophistication of TV forty years on, there was little to choose between the two. (Mind you, that is a subjective impression which would need an independent exam to prove.)

Al-Khalili certainly scored on entertainment value and the quirkiness of some of his visual analogies. To be fair, the programme did not aspire to much more. He has shown in other programmes that he thinks about the philosophy of science and its relationship with the everyday world, notably in his conversations with other scientists in Radio 4's The Life Scientific (thoroughly recommended to those who don't know it already).

Bronowski's ambition for his series was "to create a philosophy for the 20th Century which shall be all of one place. One part of that is to teach people to command science - to have command of the basic ideas of modern science, so that they can take command of its use" (from the series' programme notes).

It is not surprising that finding a link to Ascent of Man through Google turns up quotations. Bronowski is very quotable, eminently so in Knowledge or Certainty. The final, partly improvised, sequence set in Auschwitz is widely reference and is compelling, but it is all the more so in the context of the complete carefully constructed episode.

I would pick out the following. After Bronowski has outlined the insight of Werner Heisenberg, he said:

The "principle of uncertainty" is a bad name. Within science or outside of it, we are not uncertain; our knowledge is merely confined within a certain tolerance. We should call it the principle of tolerance [...] All knowledge, all information, between human beings can only be exchanged within a play of tolerance. 
The principle of uncertainty fixed once for all the realisation that all knowledge is limited. It's an irony of history that at the very time that this was being worked out there should rise under Hitler in Germany and tyrants elsewhere, a counter-conception: a principle of monstrous certainty. When the future looks back on the 1930s it will think of them as a crucial confrontation of culture as I have been expounding it - the ascent of man - against the throw-back of despotic belief to the notion that they have absolute certainty.

In the last decade or so, that monster certainty has arisen again, embraced by religious zealots to a degree which has led to genocide. This is not yet on the industrial scale of Hitler, Stalin or Pol Pot but the fear is that we have not seen the end of it.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Last hopes of Celtic Energy clean-up near vanishing point

My post of last month mentioned hopes that at least two of the scars left by Celtic Energy's open-cast mining in the county borough might be restored. This BBC report, which includes an illustration of the grim legacy, dashes them.

Local Labour councillors, who were so enthusiastic about the developments and praised the company's promised restitution scheme to the skies, should examine their consciences.

But the major part of the blame lies with the last Labour government in Westminster in actually legislating for the accounting entities which widened the scope for financial sleight-of-hand, for the coalition government in not closing them down again and for the failure of the financial conduct and supervisory authorities under both governments to enforce what law there is in this area.

Recall of MPs: the Lords should pick up the pass dropped by the Commons

The Upper House today begins discussion of the Recall Of MPs Bill, and later will consider amendments to send back to the Commons. It is to be hoped that their lordships will fill the hole at the heart of the Bill, namely that the people of a constituency may not initiate the recall of their member, which one would have thought was the primary purpose. In this era of fixed five-year parliaments there is even more need to put this weapon in the hands of the electorate than there was before 2010.

It should not be left to the Commons to "mark their own homework". (The report of the Commons Third Reading debate begins at Column 649 in the Hansard of 24th November,)

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Basic post office accounts saved

The Liberal Democrat Minister for Pensions Steve Webb announced to the House this afternoon that the Post Office Card Account will continue for a further seven years. This basic service, as I have posted before, enables people who cannot practically or absolutely make use of the commercial banks to receive the full range of benefits from the government to which they are entitled. The move also protects the Post Office network.

There are over 2 million POCA holders in the UK. Regrettably, the minister has asserted that he does not maintain statistics per constituency, so he must have done a special search for Jenny Willott in order to tell her that there are 4,000 POCA holders in Cardiff Central, and a similar service for some of the other questioners in the Commons. I would love to know what the figures are for this end of Wales - I suspect they might be rather higher than in Cardiff, in proportion to the population.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Sell software in the EU over the 'net? There are big VAT changes in less than three weeks' time.

The VAT rules for digital downloads are changing from January 1st 2015. This 
will affect everyone.

If you sell even a single item in Europe you will be affected, even if you 
are well under the VAT threshold.

They changed the law so that the VAT must be paid in the purchaser's 
country, not the seller's. This was intended to catch out companies like 
Amazon who sell from Luxembourg where the VAT is lower.

But they never realised that this will catch out the tiny one-person 
businesses as well. They've only just noticed that it will even hit people 
like housewives earning pin money while looking after the kids. So they 
haven't even told them about the change!

If you sell a song, an ebook, an app, a knitting pattern, anything like 
that, you have two choices: (I am not a lawyer, this is my understanding of 
the situation).

1> Check which country the purchaser is in. Make sure you are registered for 
VAT in that country and pay them the VAT. Some countries have a zero 
threshold for registration. And you have to check the country for every sale 
just in case.

2> Register with the 'VAT Mini One Stop Shop' the government have set up, 
which will handle the details for you. However to do this you will have to: 
Register for VAT here (though you won't have to pay VAT here until you hit 
the threshold). For every single sale, collect two non-conflicting pieces of 
evidence of which country they are in. Retain this data for 10 years. Since 
this makes you a data controller, register for that (and pay the annual fee) 
as well. Oh, and find a sales package that will handle all this for you 
(Hint: there aren't any yet).

Many people have already said that they will simply have to stop trading.

And it is intended to make the same change for physical sales, in a year's 

There's a fuller explanation of all this here:

ansible@cix has some useful links here:

And search for the hashtag #VATMOSS

Thanks to rafe at for the above warning. What makes the situation worse is that the HMRC automated telephone hotline did not recognise enquiries about the one-stop shop until Radio 4's Money Box followed up a listener's complaint earlier this month.

Bank of Scotland double-charged mortgagees, maybe committed fraud

There was disturbing news last week that Britain's biggest mortgage-lender had, contrary to a legal ruling, double-charged some of its customers in Northern Ireland.

The original [civil] case focused on the way the bank added arrears to the initial mortgage borrowing.

That is a standard practice for tackling arrears and is known as capitalisation. It has the effect of increasing borrowers' monthly repayments. The judge ruled that once capitalisation had taken place, the mortgage should no longer be considered as in arrears. However, the bank continued to treat such mortgages as in arrears and used that as the basis for bringing legal cases. The judge said this meant borrowers had been held in fear and were being threatened with repossession on account of an "erroneous and fictional arrears balance".

The province's chief law officer has now taken an interest and believes that a criminal act has been committed. There is more detail here.

BBC Radio's personal finance guru, Paul Lewis, reckoned that the aggrieved mortgage-holders were able to defend themselves against the bank's effort to repossess their properties because up until now legal aid has been available for this kind of civil case in Northern Ireland. This has not been so in England & Wales for some time, so it is likely that the bank will get away with it if it has been ripping off its customers here.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

A new inequality - and the gap is widening

Today is the centenary of Alan Bullock. Born in Wiltshire, but educated in Yorkshire, he was an influential historian who also founded St Catherine's College Oxford. He initially made his name with a biography of Hitler which the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography sniffily suggests was superseded by others' research. However, he was ready to take this on board and towards the end of his career produced a mighty parallel biography of Stalin and Hitler.

The ODNB notification landed in my in-box as I was catching up on the Thinking Allowed episode ( in which Peter Hennessy and Danny Dorling discussed the means to break into the Establishment first by the Butler 1944 Education Act (Hennessy reckoned that he was part of a golden generation) and the comprehensive revolution in England and Wales (Dorling confessed that he would not have passed the 11-plus). Before those changes, there was the opportunity offered to working-class young men and women by the great mixing of the second world war mobilisation, which was taken by Bullock and others of his generation. (On a personal note, if the son of a ship's steward from Merseyside and the daughter of a master at a venerable private school in south Wales had not both joined up and met in an army camp in Kent in wartime, I would not be here now.)

Both Dorling and Hennessy felt that, barring another war, such chances of climbing the ladder into the elite were steadily being eroded. I would add that bringing back the grammar schools (and secondary modern and technical schools for the rejects) would not recreate the conditions of 1945. The big advance was not the opening up of the grammar schools, but providing free secondary education.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Cuba revolution re-enacted on the streets of New York

Fifty years ago. this happened:

United Nations Headquarters was fired upon yesterday with a 3.5-inch bazooka from across the East River. The attack coincided with a demonstration by anti‐Communist Cubans at the front entrance against the presence of [Che Guevara]

Footnote the original bazooka was a musical instrument.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Good news for the West, bad news for Africa's poor

Thanks to Alan Bullion for posting on Facebook this report from the Food and Agriculture Organisation. It seems that while conflict and climate have decimated traditional crops of swathes of Africa and the Near East, there are bumper stocks of maize (American corn) and wheat on which the Western food industry is based. Is it too much to hope that our big supermarkets and bakers will pass on their savings on wheat and fuel to our hard-pressed working poor?

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Bringing the station nearer to the voter

Mark Pack states the case for increasing the number of polling stations in order to improve voter turnout. Given that each station requires at least two people to be on duty from 07:00 to 22:00 I envisage a few returning officers scratching their heads over the suggestion.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Mindless games aid concentration

At least that is my experience. Playing computer patience has helped me concentrate on this morning's relay of the Commons Treasury Committee proceedings, for instance*. I am sorry that Nigel Mills MP felt it necessary to apologise.

What did I do as a councillor to stop my mind drifting off during meetings at the civic centre? I must admit that I didn't do anything which would enable Labour councillors to run to the Evening Post with an adverse interpretation (though I note that a number of colleagues of all parties resorted to doodling). So I continuously took notes, probably less than a quarter of which found their way into a permanent record.

* The conclusion of this morning's session with a range of expert witnesses appears to be that of William Goldman, "nobody knows anything". In particular, Kevin Daly of Goldman Sachs (who as advisors retained by the Treasury may be somewhat biased) was optimistic that income tax returns would be higher than the latest official estimates, while the IFS's Carl Emmerson was considerably more dubious. There was a range of opinions in between.

Crunch time for olives

The Guardian is one of a number of media reporting a potential reduction of supply of olives from European groves, because of an increase in pests. It is all the more regrettable therefore that certain sections of the Israeli executive and illegal settlers make it increasingly difficult for Palestinian farmers, for whom olives form one-quarter of their income, to maintain and in some cases harvest their olives.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Towards a balanced view of Jeremy Thorpe

Tom Mangold was able to recycle shelved material from an investigation of thirty-five years ago with the death of Jeremy Thorpe. BBC Radio had clearly anticipated one or more guilty verdicts in the 1979 trial for the attempted murder of Norman Scott and commissioned research from Mangold who obtained interviews with a number of senior policemen and an alleged criminal intermediary. After the "not guilty" verdicts, presumably fear of civil court action deterred the corporation from using the recordings. No such danger now, with the passing of the last of the politicians involved. The theme of the rehashed programme was the alleged conspiracy by the Establishment to cover up Thorpe's bisexuality.

Flicking back through the Radio Times archive of "Any Questions?" broadcasts (I was searching for the programme in which Thorpe revealed his mastery of the Welsh language) I was struck by the number of regular panellists who were also closeted (necessarily because of the law) at that time. Carwyn James, the inspirational RU coach, who was later to take his own life in consequence of a same-sex affair, was a frequent guest when the programme came from Wales. Robert Boothby came within a whisker of having his sexuality revealed when a photograph of him posed with the gangster Kray twins and a rent-boy came into the possession of the Daily Mirror; the story was killed by the paper's proprietor, Cecil King. Tom Driberg seemed to lead a charmed life; his wikipedia entry suggests why his flamboyance did not lead to prosecution. There were others who had had same-sex relationships in their younger days. All would no doubt have been aware of the zeal with which the police pursued "indecent behaviour" prosecutions, even when the victims of blackmail - as Thorpe was effectively at the hands of Norman Scott - were the source.

If there was a cover-up, as Mangold posits, then it would be interesting to know why it came to an end. Peter Oborne made a suggestion, based on the memoirs of Joe Haines, Harold Wilson's press secretary, in the Spectator a dozen years ago that Thorpe was singled out for Labour political reasons. Jack Straw's response to quizzing (by Eddie Mair last Friday)  about his part in instigating the trial in which Scott was able to make his privileged accusations from the dock was rather disingenuous. Certainly, in the light of the other cases quoted above, Thorpe could have considered himself unlucky.

Back then, I was not so exercised about the sexual aspects nor about the purported murder plot, which seemed bizarre at the time. My doubt about Thorpe had arisen earlier from his directorship of the London and County Securities fringe bank, one of those swept away in a property crash which should have been a warning to the Thatcher and the Blair-Brown governments. It suggested that his judgement in financial matters was not as strong as it should have been.

If it had not been for the archaic law against physical relationships between men, Thorpe's impact on politics would almost certainly have been even greater and enduring. As Richard Moore's obituary in the Indy reminds us, Thorpe had a hard act to follow in the form of Jo Grimond, but kept the Liberal flame alive by refusing to trim and became arguably as inspirational.

[Grimond] had built up a deserved reputation as an able publicist for, and as sometimes the originator of, new ideas. He had been eloquent and was respected beyond the boundaries of the Party.

He had left the leadership at a time when the follies of the 1960s were beginning to capture Liberal hearts and minds, especially the Young Liberals, who were then taken seriously by party assemblies and the media. Indeed, for several years the Liberal Party was in danger of becoming a wing of the Peace Movement; of believing that socialism, at least in its foreign forms, was the wave of the future; of hating the US and swallowing the unilateralist nostrum.

Thorpe held off these follies by concentrating on established policies. He defended the principle of collective security and of loyal membership of the Atlantic alliance. He insisted on the need for Great Britain to join the European Community. He pleaded for co-partnership in industry. He spoke out boldly for constitutional reform. He defied unpopularity over the death penalty. He denounced dictatorship. He rejected racism when Enoch Powell was winning the plaudits of more than the mob.

In short, Thorpe stood up for Liberal values and did not conform to the modish infantilisms of the day. Not that he was insensitive to new problems or to the re-emergence of old ones. He was one of the first politicians to speak often about environmental problems, deploring the demolition of good buildings and warning against pollution. He went to Northern Ireland on several occasions, the first leader of a British political party to do so since the Stormont statelet was set up in 1921.

I am not as convinced as Mr Moore of the logic of the so-called independent nuclear deterrent, but otherwise I would like to see a restatement from the current leadership of the political values which Jeremy Thorpe stood for and which have not been repudiated either by the Liberal or Liberal Democrat parties.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Goodbye, silvery brick

It cost far more than today's basic camera phones which are slimmer, have more facilities and better definition, but it was my toe in the water of digital photography. Thanks to Lidl for the Nytech digital camera.
 It may have had only 4Mp definition, and exhaust batteries at a tremendous rate, but I seemed to get better pictures from it than trendier equipment I bought later. Now it is showing signs of age with artefacts in the images which can only come from a failing CCD, so it's off to the electronic waste with it.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Some thoughts on search engines

Mark Pack blogs in detail about the interface between search engines and web arcana.

I have been increasingly concerned about the increased commercialisation of searching, even if using meta-engines like Copernic and Dogpile. For instance, in looking up the judge's epigram quoted yesterday, relying on a vague recollection, I had to wade through screensful of plugs for expensive establishments before finding the exact quotation.

Another niggle is that the leading engines have over-reacted to the European Court ruling about burying links to old and irrelevant references, and seem to be removing links on demand. So misdeeds by public figures from more than a few years ago which remain on the print record and online if you know where to look are not readily recoverable.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Perhaps local LibDem parties should threaten deselection

It is a weapon more associated with Labour (though the heavy hand of the North London commissariat has proved more weighty in recent years) and the Tories (witness Anne McIntosh's travails in Thirsk), but even some Liberal Democrats might find the affront to the principles evidenced here and here overcoming their niceness. Sarah Teather, the sole vote against Chris Grayling's muzzling of judicial review, will be missing from the next parliament, as the Brent MP is to stand down. The point is that the Liberal Democrat party is the only one formally committed to equal access to the law. If not our MPs, who else? One answer is Elfyn Llwyd, not always in the Plaid Cymru mainstream, also standing down in 2015, who spoke in Monday's debate:
Judicial review is often the only means by which individuals can hold the Executive responsible for wrong -doing, yet the Government are trying to shut down that avenue for redress. The Joint Committee on Human Rights has said it sees no evidence to support the Government’s reforms, and neither does Justice, Liberty, JustRights, Human Rights Watch, the Howard League, Redress, Inquest, Mencap, Amnesty International—the list goes on; can anyone report which groups actually support the Government in these changes? [Hon. Members: “The Whips.”] Yes, the Whips.

On clause 67, Lords amendment 107 would maintain courts’ discretion over whether to order an intervener to pay the costs of relevant parties and vice versa. As drafted, the Bill would compel the court to order interveners to pay such costs, other than in exceptional circumstances, as we have heard from the hon. and learned Member for Torridge and West Devon. The provisions in clause 67 are among the most disturbing in the Bill. Unamended, the clause would ensure that charitable organisations and individuals with expertise could no longer enrich the opinion of the courts by intervening in cases where their expertise would be of use because they could not justify the risk to their trustees, funders or members of supporting litigation. As the noble Lord Carlile [Liberal Democrat] asked in the other place:

“How could trustees reasonably agree to support an intervention when it could result in losing tens of thousands of pounds or more in costs, jeopardising, in some cases, the existence of small charities?”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 30 June 2014; Vol. 754, c. 1607.]

Yet the plans would still allow Departments and corporations with huge funds to intervene and hence play a pivotal part in the development of public law.

I ask the House to reconsider the Government’s proposals in the context of the various and—I am trying to avoid vitriol—crippling reforms to access to justice in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. As a result of the significant cuts in that Act, more individuals will be looking to charitable organisations for support in getting justice. It seems to me that clause 67 will take away this last resort. I am afraid the Government seem intent on restricting access to justice so that only those with the least to lose can gain redress. Why do they think it necessary to pursue this agenda, which will throw the baby out with the bathwater, despite the perceived misuses of the law relating to judicial review? The hon. and learned Gentleman, a far more experienced lawyer than me, has referred to the time-honoured practice of judicial review—the Wednesbury principles and so on—and the practices in place to ensure that Departments act reasonably in all circumstances. Why should we not uphold the individuals’ rights to ensure that Departments act reasonably?

In conclusion, Justice said:

“Punitive and disproportionate, these measures are designed to deter any organisation with limited funds acting as an intervener. In practice, this means that – even in important cases with a constitutional impact which reaches far beyond the immediate interests of the parties - the court will no longer benefit from expert advice and information provided from cash-poor and experience rich charities and NGOs.”

I think that says it all. As we heard earlier, senior judges themselves are on the record as saying that the courts are enriched by the interventions of these people, who know exactly what they are talking about.

In this same week, Theresa May allowed only judicial review as a means of redress for those deemed to be returning jihadis, labelled as such by a functionary of the state, not by a court of law:
Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): I understand the system that my right hon. Friend is putting in place of managed return, but what is not clear in the Bill is the system that will be present to enable that managed return requirement to be challenged. I wonder whether she can help the House on that point. It seems to me that there must be a mechanism by which a person who is told that they have to return in a particular way can challenge it on their return to this country, and do so expeditiously, if it is not to be an unwarranted interference with their rights.

Mrs May: There will be a form of challenge available to an individual under judicial review. We will also have to notify the individual that action is being taken against them, so that they are aware that the measure is being put in place.

It appears from the following equivocal exchange that there is unlikely to be any state aid for returners who cannot find the money for a legal challenge from their own resources:
Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab): On a point that was made earlier, if an individual has the right to challenge how they are managed—I think the right hon. Lady said that it would be by means of judicial review—can we ensure that they have legal aid to do that?

Mrs May: As the hon. Lady knows, the Government have made a number of changes to legal aid, and we are looking at the position in relation to that particular issue on these new measures.

Late nineteenth-century Irish judge Sir James Mathew was just one of those down the ages pointing out the hypocrisy of the administration of justice:
In England, Justice is open to all, like the Ritz hotel.

Liberals and socialists in the last century moved to correct this, but under the last three administrations we have seen a tilting back of the balance towards the establishment. Even before the "reforms" of this government, I have seen two people in Neath Port Talbot clobbered with the financial cosh of costs awarded against them in cases where they were seen to be in the right. Surely we cannot rely on the efforts of the stinking rich to expose maladministration in future?

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Chancellor's nod to real music

Jessica Duchen blogs :

In yesterday's autumn statement, the chancellor, George Osborne, announced (among other things) that orchestras in the UK may get tax breaks. [...] nobody seems quite certain whether it will make any difference to the fortunes of these organisations once the next round of ACE funding cuts is meted upon them.[...] We suspect that this may be a case of the chancellor giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

Presumably such tax breaks would apply to Wales, notwithstanding the devolution of arts policy.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

IT debt

A few days before the Chancellor's Autumn Statement, I received this timely reminder from MicroFocus that, while national governments are still having to handle deficits and thus are racking up increasing debt, global companies are cash-rich. The article is US-orientated, but I recall financial commentators pointing out that the same is true of London-quoted corporations.

The article questions the philosophy of building up cash reserves while doing no more than patch up IT systems. This failure to plan and implement change and to train IT staff has been particularly marked in the case of banks, leading to disasters like this.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Bus subsidy cuts bite

This Wales Online article bears out the warnings about the effect that budget cuts by both the Labour Welsh Government and local authorities would have. Bus passenger numbers in Wales have fallen, uniquely among the nations of the UK.

Tax rises will be necessary

- and when the parties go to the country in May, they should not be frightened to say so. The big increase in Liberal Democrat representation in 1997 was on the back of a manifesto positing a penny on the basic rate of income tax. This time round, it will not even be necessary to touch the basic rate. The people on lower incomes have suffered enough.

The projected increase in NHS spending (of which Wales will get £70m) apart, public spending will have to be restrained for another year, as Nick has warned. However, there are signs that the long-delayed growth in Germany, the powerhouse of the EU, on which so much of our own recovery forecasts were based, is about to happen. Also, we may yet be surprised by the tax returns from self-employment, which should start to come in shortly.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Co-operators not happy with contributions to political parties

The results of the the Cooperative Movement's survey of its customers from earlier in the year have now been released by YouGov. (There are pdfs on the Web: and I turned immediately to the section about the Coop's links to Labour via the Cooperative Party, having banged on about this for some time. I was gratified by the outcome:

Overall, respondents believed that it is inappropriate for big businesses to donate money to political parties, with six in ten (59 per cent) of the general public thinking this. [...] This was reinforced further by respondents having negative perceptions of The Co-operative donating to The Co-operative Party. Only 14 per cent of the general public disagreed with the statement ‘it is inappropriate for The Co-operative to give financial support to a political party’.


there was strong support for redistributing the funds given to The Co-operative Party to the local community

The political dimension of the European Union

Once again, we hear Eurosceptic Tories parroting that the British were deceived into voting to stay in the European community on a false premise. I am old enough to remember the days before the last European referendum when our then leaders, who had most of them seen war service, were open about the need to bind the continent together to prevent a third carnage. David Steel, happily still with us, was another to speak about "shared sovereignty" in Europe.

So the deceivers were not Europhiles. Most prominent among those who put the case for Europe as a free trade area and nothing more was Margaret Thatcher, as Mark Pack reminds us.