News from British and Canadian Conservatives

Friday, February 20, 2009

Starbucks tells it straight - British Government in denial

British Trade Minister, Lord Mandelson, doesn't like the truth when it comes to the British Economy after 12 years of Labour government. He certainly didn't like what Starbucks' CEO, Howard Schultz had to say on CNBC:

"The place that concerns us the most is western Europe, and specifically the UK. The UK is in a spiral...Unemployment, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, particularly in the UK, and I think consumer confidence, particularly in the UK, is very, very poor."
Mandelson's response was impolite, to say the least. However, a look at today's economic data suggests that it may be time to ask Howard Schultz to take over the reigns of running the British Economy - at least he recognises the problems which Lord Mandelson seems so deny:

  • Government borrowing set to overshoot November's projected £77bn, already a record.
  • Zavvi, Britain's largest independent entertainment retailer which combines the renowned Virgin Megastore and Ourprice groups is to close all its remaining stores, having failed to attract a buyer after two months in administration.
  • JJB Sports' administrators are closing almost all of its Qube stores and most of its OSC shoe shops. Analysts doubt that a buyer will even be found for the remaining 32 outlets.
  • Stylo's 220 Barrets and Priceless shoe retailing chains are also closing, with 2,500 job losses. A further 165 stores and 3,000 jobs have be saved by a management buy-out.
Meanwhile, the government is mired in more and more scandals. Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, is now under investigation for embezzling £115,000 taxpayers' money by claiming that her main home is her sister's spare room, and charging the taxpayer for the cost of her mortgage on her constituency home! Not to be outdone, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, is under fire for claiming his second home allowance to pay for his mortgage in Edinburgh - even though he is provided with a grace and favour home at 11 Downing Street, courtesy of the taxpayer. Finally, the appropriately-titled Paymaster General (and Minister for the Olympics), Tessa Jowell's husband has been imprisoned for taking US$600,000 in bribes from the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, in return for which he lied during corruption trials.

Apparently, none sees fit to resign or faces the sack. Thankfully, Smith and Darling both represent highly marginal constituencies (Redditch and Edinburgh SW respectively), which they look set to lose at next year's election, especially given the recent opinion polls giving the Conservatives a 20% lead.

Human Wrongs

Another astonishing verdict handed down by the European Court of Human Rights. Islamic extremists with links to Al Qaeda and the hate-preaching, hook-handed, one-eyed Islamic Cleric Abu Hamza, who supported the 7/7 London bombers have been awarded substantial damages courtesy of the British taxpayer. Apparently, it was against their human rights to incacerate them for their views and connections without a trial. In the topsy-turvy world of human rights, it is of course perfectly reasonable that the rest of us have to live in fear of terrorist attrocities. How many more people have to be murdered in cold blood before the travesty of the Human Rights Act is replaced and criminals can be punished.

The ECHR has form in these cases. Previously, the British government was forced to pay the IRA damages, for shooting two known terrorists whilst on holiday in Spain because they weren't carrying guns at the time. Call me old fashioned, but I don't want the soldiers who are protecting us from mass murderers to stop to ask if terrorists are armed at that precise moment.

We can await the forthcoming verdict from The Hague with baited breath. One of the terrorists who has been awarded £2,500 is facing extradition to Jordan. He is also taking that case to the ECHR, arguing that he faces torture if he is returned to his home country. He should be sent to Israel - they know the proper way to deal with terrorists.

Little Europers strike again

So often, Europhiles decry British Eurosceptics as "Little Englanders" only interested in our little island. The truth is often rather different - many of us just recognise the EU for what it is - an attempt to block global free trade to preserve its political leaders' status as members of an exclusive club. The latest recession serves to reinforce that reality.

Despite rhetoric against Obama's protectionsist stance on steel imports, the European Union is itself taking actions to restrict free trade. Hypocritically, they have even served the WTO with notice of their intention to increase tariffs on steel imports! It doesn't end there - imports of clothes, biofuels, chemicals and screws are all on the hit list for higher import duties and/or lower quotas. To cap it all off, the EU is now subsidising exports of dairy products.

Let us remind ourselves what Labour's British Trade Minsiter and former European Commissioner for Trade recently said:

"Protectionism would be a sure-fire way of turning recession into depression."
Yet, of course, the democratically-elected British government is powerless to enact its policies without permission from the unelected European Commission. The the European Commission would rather plunge the world into the forwarned depression than lose power to China and India.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Quote of the day: Lord Tebbit

"The truth is that the BBC doesn't know that it is biased. It thinks that Guardian reading champagne socialists are the norm."

Daily Telegraph

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Lib Dem Education policy doesn't add up

This week, the British Lib Dems unveiled a new education policy. It's full of nice sounding measures, as usual. However, the funds they have announced for the plan do not come close to the actual cost.

Scrapping the Children's account, whereby the Government gives each baby £250 would have saved £172,503,250 in 2007, when there were 690,013 live births in England and Wales. Yet the cost of employing the 38,304 extra teachers required to reduce class sizes as proposed would cost £937,752,284.84 for salaries (based on the minimum starting salary of £20,627), employer pension contributions (at 14%, as required by the teachers' contract) and mandatory employer National Insurance contributions. Once London weightings and experience points are added, the cost would be even higher, even before taking into account training costs, administration and costs of advertising the posts. Thus, implementing the reduced class sizes for 5-7 year olds would require massive, unidentified cuts to other parts of the budget.

In addition, these teachers are going to need classrooms. 38,304 classrooms, in fact. According to the Department for Education and Skills, there are 482,000 vacant primary school places, a vacancy rate of 11%. A minimum of 5% of places need to be vacant to ensure that there are placees for children to move between schools when they move to a different area or need to change schools for another reason. Thus, even if the vacant classrooms are all exactly where they are needed (which is highly unlikely), the policy requires the construction of 29,540 new classrooms. A typical classroom in Peterborough, for example, costs £137,000 to build, meaning that a massive £5,247,680,000 would have to be added to schools' capital budgets.

That's before even considering the second part of the proposal - to increase spending on educating "disadvantaged" pupils to the same level as private schools. Under this plan, schools will be paid a "pupil premium" for every child in attendance who is entitled to a free school meal, at a total cost of £2,500,000,000 per year.

So, in the first five years alone, the Lib Dems are proposing to spend an additional £12,750,000,000 but have only identified £862,500,000 of funding for the scheme. Where is the other almost £12 billion going to come from? Britain is already hopelessly indebted after 12 years of Socialism, so that is not an option and the Lib Dems have already said that they plan to cut taxes.

Of course, this is all assuming that 38,304 people are sitting at home waiting to train as teachers. They aren't, which is why there is a massive shortage of teachers, particularly in key subjects like Maths, English and Science. That's why the Government runs adverts on television, in magazines and newspapers, on buses and on advertising hoardings urging people to become teachers, all at vast cost. It's also why the Government pays teachers' tuition fees back to them when they start work. The actual cost of the Lib Dem scheme would be phenomenal, and yet still it would never be achievable.

Even if the scheme was workable and affordable, I don't believe that it would make a jot of difference to underachieving childrens' academic performance. It's not just money that often leaves the less affluent children at the bottom of the class - which is why you can find children from poor backgrounds excelling, and others from very wealthy homes struggling. Often, the children who are at the bottom of the class are there because their parents do not value education, and that has rubbed off on their children. Throwing vast sums of money will not solve that problem - only the parents can do that.