Fair access?

It seems that Vince has triumphed over Dave over the appointment of the egregious Prof. Ebdon to head up the ‘Office of Fair Access’ (to universities).

This office was part of the New Labour flock of quangoes set up to provide jobs for its clients and cronies and any government serious about promoting academic standards and freedom and real ‘social mobility’ should have scrapped it and all its works and pomps within nanoseconds of taking office.

That this organisation still exists raises grave questions about the real intentions of the ‘Coalition’. That Vince Cable should want to appoint the Vice-Chancellor (sic) of the University of Bedfordshire to this post shouldn’t surprise anyone, given Vince’s heavily left- socialist leanings. That the ‘Prof’ is a known advocate of the sort of courses I used to advise my own students to avoid like the plague and thus not principally interested in serious scholarship is probably his best qualification in Vince’s eyes.

But the Prime Minister should surely be able to overrule his Cabinet member on this issue, even if he is a Liberal Democrat. This is especially so when the relevant House of Commons committee has refused to endorse the appointment, having interviewed the ‘Prof’ at great length. Yet Downing Street says that DC is powerless! Powerless to stop this man trying to impose his failed social engineering experiments on some of the foremost academic institutions in the world.

DC should watch out, lest people begin to believe either that he really IS powerless, or that he actually supports the continuation of Labour’s failed social engineering, as approved by some but not all Liberal Democrats. Neither of these perceptions will help him become leader of a majority government.

Posted in Education, Lib Dems, Politics | Leave a comment

Happy St. Valentine’s Day!

Happy New Year – yes it is my first post on this blog in 2012. I have been active elsewhere though!

Also happy Valentine’s Day!

I was pleased this morning to read that Baroness Warsi is to see the Pope and agree with him about the marginalisation of faith, especially Christianity, in our society today. She might like to mention one minor contribution the Vatican has itself made to this.

St. Valentine is surely one of the Christian saints almost everybody has heard of and his feast day is known to just about everybody – especially the manufacturers of greetings cards, florists and restaurateurs.  The Roman Martyrology (pre-Vatican 2) lists today as his birthday and says that ‘after many wondrous works of healing and teaching, he was scourged with rods and beheaded under Claudius Caesar.’ This makes him one of the earliest Christian martyrs. My 1962 Roman Missal lists today as ‘Commemoration of St. Valentine’ and researches into the Greek Orthodox calendar also list today as ‘Valentini’.

So why does the ‘Novus Ordo’, introduced by Archbp. Hannibal Bugnini under Pope Paul VI after Vatican 2 and called by Pope Benedict ‘the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite’ remove this best known of saints from the Calendar altogether?

Under the ‘Ordinary Form’ I should wish you all a happy feast of SS. Cyril and Methodius but it doesn’t quite have the same ring does it?

So come on Sayeeda, tell His Holiness to put St. Valentine back where he belongs and where he has been since Christianity’s earliest days!

Posted in Celebrations, Conservatives, Religion | Leave a comment

One year on….

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote about voting reform, calling for a serious review of the registration system as a starting point.

Not long ago I read that Cornwall County Council is seeking to ban second home owners in the county from registering to vote because they don’t pay full Council Tax and yet can have a full vote for local councillors. The Lib Dems especially think this is costing them seats.

They also assert, rightly in my opinion, that these second home owners are also registered at their ‘main’ address elsewhere and that it would be possible for some of them at least to vote more than once at a General Election. Indeed it would, and who’s to know? Now that anyone can have a postal vote simply by ticking a box on the registration form, are the hard worked registration staffs of each local authority going to cross-check with their opposite numbers in an infinity of other authorities to see that Fred Bloggs of 15 Acacia Drive Birmingham hasn’t also voted in Newquay or Polperro? This when the number of registered postal voters in the recent Surbiton Hill by-election was over 1,700.

Cornwall is reckoned to have 13,600 or so second home owners who would be affected by the ban. But think on this – there are many thousands of voters who don’t pay the Council Tax at all and are transient and temporary residents within every town with a university in it. Most of them will be registered both at their parents’ address and in their university town. I found to my surprise that I was when a post-graduate at Manchester in 1968-9. My Hall of Residence had registered me. At that time, however, the voting age was 21 and so very few undergraduates could vote at all and the numbers of voters was tiny. Then Harold Wilson lowered the voting age to 18 and since that time we have had a government which has had an official target of cramming roughly half the population into some sort of university. This has created a situation beside which the number of second home owners in Cornwall dwindles into insignificance.

At the last GE the Lib Dems successfully tapped this vote reservoir with their pledge to end tuition fees – remember? How many Lib Dem MPs with unis in their constituencies have majorities well less than the number of registered student voters? Quite a few, I think. Now I notice that Ed Miliband is trying a variant of the same theme with a pledge to cut tuition fees (a Labour invention, by the way) to £6,000.

Making promises of this kind to specific interest groups is not new. But never in our history since the abolition of property qualifications has there been so much scope for multiple registration of individuals and for some at least of those individuals to vote more than once without likelihood of detection.

I may be exaggerating and, in a way, I hope I am but I have seen precious little evidence in the past 12 months to convince me that the powers that be are taking this anything like seriously enough.

What do I think would be practical and fair?  For all electors to register once only each year at a place of residence they deem to be their principal one and not to be able to register anywhere else within six months of having made that choice.

Posted in Campaigning, Elections, Politics | 1 Comment

Surbiton Hill by-election

I notice that a lot of people came searching on this site on 16th September, doubtless wanting a quick reaction to the Surbiton Hill by-election.

They didn’t get one. The curious can read what I think on the Surbiton Hill Forum website and the comments made by some others.

I am sad for the ward I served for so long and love so much that, where it formerly had councillors who knew their stuff and fought for their constituents – all of them! – to ensure that at least their concerns were given a fair hearing, it now has three glove-puppets for Derek Osbourne, one of whom has moved out of the Borough.

Posted in Conservatives, Elections, Lib Dems, Politics, Ward | Leave a comment


What is? England’s performance in the second and third ODIs!

Cook seems to have got Strauss’s disease – an inability to set an attacking field and respond to situations in any other than a purely formulaic way. The usual advice is, if you win the toss on a flat, docile pitch like Headingley on Friday, BAT FIRST!! Fill your boots and make the other lot play catch up later! Malinga can only bowl 10 overs after all. Also, ANDERSON SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE AT LEAST ONE SLIP. He’s a swing bowler and it broke my heart yesterday at Lord’s to see edges go for 4 at third man that would have been down first or second slip’s throat.

My long experience with cricket teams I have coached and managed (sceptics see correspondence with Martin De Kauwe elsewhere) also taught me the following: if you’ve batted first and made a low score, the only way open to you to win is to get the other lot all out. There are no draws in limited over cricket. This means attacking bowling and fields to match. After all, a batsman who is out can’t score any more runs, can he? As it was Cook got it plain wrong at Headingley and at Lord’s – Sri Lanka were never really under any pressure at all.

What to do about it? Put out an A team for the next two matches to win the series. This means dropping Broad and Kieswetter (and perhaps Trott), bringing back Prior and either Finn or Tremlett in Broad’s place as a bowler or another spinner to complement Swann – and look for a captain with some tactical nouse! Why does no-one think of Bell?

Posted in Cricket, Sport | Leave a comment

Public sector pensions

It is worth reflecting, especially today, on the problems confronting public sector pension provision. I hope the people striking will have sufficient breadth of mind to consider where the country, which had the best provision for pension funding in western Europe in 1997, including in the public sector, went wrong.

In the beginning we elected New Labour, feeling it was safe to do so under the quasi-Tory Blair and ‘prudent’ Gordon Brown. In Brown’s first budget he set off on the road to where we are today when he tampered with the Advance Corporation Tax regime which had applied for years to pension funds. I have seen figures suggesting that this action has deprived them of funds of in excess of £150 billion since then. Part of the effect of this has been that private sector pension pots have shrunk and final salary schemes, once commonplace, have all but disappeared.

Public sector schemes have not been so badly affected because, effectively, they are supported by everyone else’s taxes. As a councillor from 1998 to 2010 I saw that, in my early years it was occasionally the case that no money came from the General Fund to bolster the pension fund, so well were the fund’s investments performing in relation to the demands upon them. Latterly substantial subventions have been necessary and these have come from Council Tax payers.

Which brings us to the second prong of Labour’s creation of the current crisis. Prudence was abandoned and profligacy was the order of the day. The Guardian on Wednesday bulged for years with adverts for new public sector appointments adding hundreds of thousands to the public payroll and billions to the pension commitments made to each of them. Brown, we know, was creating a ‘client state’ of millions of voters with a vested interest in maintaining and expanding the bloated public sector payroll and the Labour government with it. On top of that we had inflation-busting public sector salary increases whereby  Chief Executives of even small local authorities are being paid more than the Prime Minister – and it doesn’t stop at CEOs, the others are paid pro rata. And it worked for a time – at the expense of borrowing heavily even in the most benign economic circumstances for decades, when a truly prudent policy would have been to repay old debt, rather than taking on new debt all the time. That, and to boost wealth creation and the private investment from which it flows.

And the country fell for it! It suited many of us to believe that Gordon had really abolished the economic cycle and that the cloud-cuckooland we all inhabited would last for ever. Even George and Dave seemed to fall for it, abandoning ‘Thatcherism’ and banging on about ‘sharing the proceeds of growth’, when they really should have known better.

The egg laid by Tony out of Gordon has hatched an enormous chicken which had to come home to roost sometime. Now is the time, but let no-one be in doubt as to the parentage of this particular bird.

Posted in Economy, Labour | Leave a comment

Now move on

The Referendum has produced a clear result against AV. Apart from Camden I can’t find any polling area between The Scillies and Orkney and Shetland that actually voted for it. Unlike the regionalpolls in Scotland and Wales this wasa truly national vote showing a degree of unanimity across the UK that Unionists like me can only find profoundly heartening. Alex Salmond and Ed Miliband should take note.

Many Lib Dems will feel sore. I understand that. But taalk of getting more aggressive within the Coalition – or even leaving it altogether – would be disastrous for them. Some Lib Dems would obviously like to be in permanent opposition and are very uncomfortable being in government. If they walk away now that’s the future for them. But they mustn’t con themselves into believing that they can ever go back to where they were 12 months ago- All things to all men won’t wash any more.

 The Conservative party has actually emerged with more seats even than 2007. We also have more Welsh Assembly members but fewer MSPs. The constitutional dog’s breakfast that was Blair’s Devolution wasn’t supposed to produce this sort of  result. That it has is a beautiful illustration of the Law of Unintended Consequences – it’s what comes of fixing what ain’t broke! It is broke now and Cameron will have to take note of that.

Posted in Campaigning, Conservatives, Elections, Labour, Politics, Referendum | Leave a comment