...a blog by Richard Flowers

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day 3375: Take a Chancellor On Me!


The world-weary member of the Government, knowing that they're going to lose and just going through the motions; the smug Opposition candidate, so certain that they are entitled to walk into office and so clearly demonstrating their unfitness to do so, with all the same old, tired, prepared lines that just ring false; and the Liberal Democrat who's a star.

Yes, it's the 1997 Stevenage Election Debate between doomed Conservatory Mr Tim Wood; power-dressing Hard Labour wannabe Mrs Barbie wife-of-the-millionaire-author-Ken Follet; and Daddy Alex!

Well, they do say History repeats itself, first in the Grauniad, then on Channel Four.

Okay, okay, it was "Ask the Chancellors" on the telly, staring Mr Dr Vince "the Power" Cable, Sooty, Mr Frown's Glove Puppet, and someone who claims that Mr Balloon knows him.

That "someone" turned out to be Master Gideon "I've seen people do being the Chancellor so I could do it" Oboe – so called because he is wooden and windy. Presumably the young millionaire baronet would be confident that we could show him some footage of parachuting and then push him out of a plane!

In fact, most of the Conservatory coverage following the debate has been along the lines of: "Master Oboe did not actually come on stage and drop his trousers – what a magnificent triumph this is!"

Is it just me, or can we not aspire to MORE from the Shadow Chancer than passing the "barely competent" test?

After all, what kind of person can declare their "top priority" for Government to be a policy THEY DIDN'T EVEN HAVE YESTERDAY?

Remarking on Master Oboe's unexpected conversion to cutting taxes instead of reducing the deficit, Mr Michael Thick on the Newsnight Show said what a TERRIBLE SHAME it was that two big economic developments had occurred on the same day – like it was some kind of FLUKE that the Conservatories JUST HAPPENED to make this U-Turn mere hours before he was to go up against the grown-ups.

As Miss Piggy says in "The Great Muppet Caper" when the very transport she requires just happens to literally fall off the back of a passing lorry:
"What an UNBELIEVABLE coincidence!"
Quite obviously, Master Gideon had been prompted to make this announcement to make it LOOK like the Conservatories had something up their sleeve to reply to the Liberal Democrat policy of cutting taxes for millions by raising the basic allowance to £10,000.

Not that "not raising your taxes in a year paid for by cuts now" REALLY compares to "an immediate £700 a year back, NOW when the economy needs it to get growth started again".

(And I know it's a fiddly detail, but it's a further COMPLICATING of the tax system because he'd STILL be introducing an extra 1p on NI (EACH for employer and employee) on incomes above a certain level, effectively making another NI band. Remember: the SIMPLER the tax system, the FAIRER the tax system, as it is EASIER for the taxpayer to UNDERSTAND.)

Pulling this "rabbit-out-of-the-hat" trick of an announcement is yet another in a series of WILD and UNPREDICTABLE swings in Conservatory economic policy: first it's the age of austerity, then they're guaranteeing to match Hard Labour spending; first cuts are going to have to be faster and deeper, then they're not; last week, efficiency savings are fiction, this week they're the pot of pixie gold at the end of Mr Oboe's rainbow; cut the deficit first; no, cut taxes first!


They're just desperately rummaging around for anything that they think might look good on an airbrushed poster!

Last week, someone – I think it might have been Mr Paxo on the Newsnight Show after the budget – asked why, after the implosion of the Credit Crunch and the Longest Recession in History™, are Hard Labour warming up to fight on the economy?

Well dur!

If they DON'T, then they SURRENDER that territory to the Conservatories!

What is surely far more ASTONISHING, is just how UNPREPARED the Conservatories are to fight them there.

Remember, this is a Hard Labour Government that has just delivered a budget including such gems as saving a half a billion pounds by people in the NHS being less poorly. Presumably, this means Lord Blairimort's return to front-line British politics is to be accompanied by him curing the lame and dying through the laying on of hands (fee: negotiable).

Because while Mr Oboe may be groping for the first clue about how to run the economy, Chancellor Sooty seems to have given up even trying.

You could see it in his eyes, really. The despair.

Take this business about the "Death Tax".

The Conservatories are WIDE OPEN here. "Death Tax", they say over and over. "Death Tax, Death Tax, Death Tax!" And yet, the Conservatories themselves have almost the same policy – they AGREE about charging for care for the elderly; they ONLY disagree about TIMING!

The policy that they label a "Death Tax" is the possibility that Hard Labour might – just might – increase care for the elderly paid for by introducing a twenty thousand pound exit charge. Yup, you get free care till you die, at which point you are charged for it.

The Conservatories policy is the ENTIRELY different policy of charging you eight thousand pounds on retirement. Yes, you pay UP FRONT. Even if you DON'T end up needing care in your old age. The Conservatories call this "Insurance" but if they're going to keep saying "Death Tax" then I'm going to have to start calling it the "Good as Dead Tax"!

Conservatory Shadow Death Secretary, Mr Angela Lansbury, explained it all on the The Today Programme:
"one in five will need residential care in old age, costing on average fifty thousand pounds over two years. So, so long as all five in five pay their eight thousand then that'll pay for itself! Hang on five times eight only makes forty… let's just remember that Hard Labour want to tax DEATH!"

So, look, to even just barely make SENSE the Conservatories would have to chare TEN thousand pounds each, not EIGHT. But TEN thousand is a number which sounds too much like the Hard Labour charge of TWENTY thousand and would reveal the SIMILARITY.

Yes, Hard Labour and Conservatory Parties in practically indistinguishable complete non-shock!

But does Chancellor Sooty point out that Master Gideon is being a noisome TWIT, copycatting the tactics of American Replutocrats by putting a SCARY NAME on a policy that he barely disagrees with just to FRIGHTEN voters into voting Conservatory when they'll end up with much the same?


The exhausted glove puppet lets slip one of his trade mark confessions and admits that Hard Labour are going to chicken out of the policy because they're too scared to take on the snivelling little shouty-boy's half-baked argument!

It is really too much effort to crush him like one of his own pimples? For this end-of-the-line Hard Labour Government, apparently so.

He just waits to hand over to BUGGINS TURN in the knowledge that not a lot will change and no doubt he'll get a very nice retirement, perhaps on the board of one of these Banks Wot We Own.

At this point, do I REALLY need to point out just WHY Mr Dr Vince was universally seen as winning the debate?

(Oh yes, UNIVERSALLY – do you think those Conservatories would be SQUEALING about "Lib Dems stuffing the audience" if they didn't know, KNOW that our guy came in WAY ahead?)

That phrase of Mr Vince's, "Pinstripe Scargills", PERFECTLY sums up how Hard Labour and the Conservatories like the pigs and the farmers at the end of Animal Farm, have become indistinguishable.

As Mr Vince said himself in his closing remarks: the Liberal Democrats are DIFFERENT, not beholden to EITHER the Pinstipe vested interst in the City, NOR the Scargill vested interest in the Unions.

"We believe in a change of Government, but a REAL CHANGE!"

You CAN do better than Mr Frown's puppet or Mr Balloon's weakest link. You CAN have Mr Vince as Chancellor. You just have to VOTE LIBERAL DEMOCRAT!


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Day 3373: DOCTOR WHO: Bad Doggie


Time is running out for Dr Woo. It won't be long before the new fellow arrives.

And Daddy's been distracted by another TRAILER!

This calls for DRASTIC ACTION. Let's try changing channels at random and see what we end up with. Ooh! It looks a bit like this…

It must be one of the most arresting openings of any Doctor Who story: materialising in a broom cupboard, the Doctor staggers out to find himself literally live on Big Brother and Davina summons him to the diary room. As the man himself puts it, you have got to be kidding.

The story doesn't really take flight until they actually get out into the Game Station, nee Satellite Five, after which there is a pounding acceleration towards Rose's "death" and then it just keeps building up until the reveal of the Daleks at the end.

But to say that is to overlook the opening half hour as though it's a redundant curiosity, when obviously it's the whole point. Doctor Who hasn't done anything this bizarre, this outré since "The Mind Robber" and certainly hasn't done anything like it subsequently. Even an episode like "Love & Monsters" doesn't push the series so far outside of running up and down the corridors of the comfort zone. This is biting satire about our relationship with television itself, performing wicked parodies of some of the most popular mass-entertainment shows of the last decade… with the collaboration of the stars of those very series.

Why are all the game shows familiar ones? Why, 198,095 years in the future would TV producers look back to early 21st Century television?

Well obviously it's because this is Science Fiction and, as everyone knows, Science Fiction – particularly when written by Russell – is very much about the now, not about the future.

It's important to remember that in 2005 the shows parodied here were all at the heights of their popularity, even if they have waned since (and we have seen the rise of the Phone-in-vote Talent Show). They're all from different genres too: quiz show, reality show and make-over show, and they're all, there's no kind way to put it, examples of the nastier sort, celebrating the bitchy put-downs and humiliation of the participants.

The making of Doctor Who, the scheduling of it on a Saturday evening, is clearly a rebuke to all these lazy, lowest-common-denominator shows that pad the ratings an anesthetize the viewers rather than stimulate them.

Either that or the Daleks are obsessed with TV Century 21.

There is one anomaly. All of the shows mentioned are familiar ones – Ground Force, Stars in their Eyes, Call My Bluff as well as the three we actually see – except for "Bear With Me". But that's strange too. How is it possible for the Doctor to be familiar with "Bear With Me", in particular a specific celebrity special that Lynda has seen too, when he as good as states that this entire timeline is unfamiliar to him?

Are his Time Lord memories adapting to the new timeline? Or do we have to infer that "Bear With Me" is supposed to exist in the timeline that the Doctor remembers? That, if potentially violently fatal TV series exist then anyway, may be slyly commenting on Human nature in the "real" version of history. Interesting that the Doctor enjoys them too, although he once claimed his favourite period was the French Revolution, so there's no accounting for his tastes.

But let's look at what this episode is doing. Doctor Who did "social comment" in the Barry Letts era, dressed up as monsters and frilly shirts; Philip Hinchcliffe took the idea of the Doctor and threw him at someone else's genre; and under Graham Williams guidance multi-layered stories were made to blend witty repartee with the monster shtick. Here, Russell Davies does all three.

The crucial line is where the Doctor, appalled at having to face the outcome of his own failure to tidy up after himself, rounds on Lynda-with-a-Y to denounce the state of the Earth in space year 200,100:

"Half the world is too thin; half the world is too fat; and you all just sit there watching television?!"

This is the Doctor's "second coming" to this blighted future and Christopher Eccleston has played the messiah for Russell before, of course, so in part this "Jesus moment" is prefiguring his coming martyrdom. (Just as throwing away the gun with a "like I was going to shoot you" prefigures his choice with the Delta Wave.)

But the point he makes is a powerful one.

We, by which I mean we watchers of Doctor Who, so largely the United Kingdom, and then America and Australia and the West in general, we are all to blame. We have too much, use too much of everything: too much food; too much energy; too much carbon. We love our cars and our computers; our air-conditioned homes and our all-you-can-eat hamburger joints; and we love our television.

Doctor Who won't make such a pointed criticism of its audience again until "Planet of the Ood" ("Where do your clothes come from?") and – as Lawrence Miles is never tired of pointing out – the Doctor backs down from that remark remarkably quickly too.

What happens from here on in is that the producers become conscious of the huge hit they have on their hands and, sadly, choose to become much more safe. This production team is willing to take risks. Thinking that they may only get one year of Doctor Who, they want to make it really matter. Future series will exhibit far greater caution.

It may seem odd for a television series to be attacking the passive interaction of television, but at it's best Doctor Who is a celebration of getting out there, exploring and finding things out for yourself.

As the Doctor tells Adam in explicit prequel to this story, "The Long Game":

"Time travel is like visiting Paris. You can't just read the guidebook, you've got to throw yourself in. Eat the food, use the wrong verbs, get charged double and end up kissing complete strangers."

And remember, Russell's first break in television was, after all, "Why Don't You?" as in "Why Don't You Switch Off Your Television Set and Go and Do Something More Useful Instead?"

As a piece of television (appropriately), though, this really does push the envelope of what the series producers can realise on screen, in fact it slightly exceeds it and as a result cheapens the TV pastiches.

The Big Brother House isn't very big. It's a little too obvious that they've saved money by not having a garden. Trine-E and Zu-Zanna's studio is a coat rail.

And, although the cast is huge – and it is huge, with all the contestants and androids and TV controllers and Nick Briggs… as the voice of the Daleks – but it's clear that the budget can only run to just so many extras – there are only two other Housemates and, rather blatantly, two of the Weakest Link contestants are non-speaking parts (even when being disintegrated!).

And the film-look is wrong; it looks like Doctor Who, not "Big Brother" or "Weakest Link".

To be fair, it's a brilliant satire, a brilliant pastiche and it's brilliant that they got Anne Robinson, Davina McCall and Trinny and Susanna to do the voices, but as a story it doesn't quite work as well as it could.

Our Heroes are just too aware that they are in the wrong place, so we never accept the pastiches as anything other than the phoneys that they turn out to be. It's almost as though Russell wants to say this big political thing but has no confidence in it as a story; he wants to hurry us along to the action adventure with the Daleks. And that's a shame, because there is more you could do here, having the Doctor work it out and slowly break free of his conditioning, rather than just suddenly remember everything would have made "Bad Wolf" more of a complete story in its own right.

These days, of course, he could have done "Bad Wolf" in the usual forty-five minutes and finished with the reveals that the Game Station is Satellite 5, and that the "Bad Wolf" corporation is running the show, and then "killed" Rose… and then demanded an hour long special for the season's big finish.

Instead what we get is a half-hour of cute set pieces and then a fifteen minute intro to next week's first-time-ever official Season Finale.

Having said that, it's a really good intro to the concluding story. Once it starts it's a real thriller, bettered only by the similarly-formulated last fifteen minutes of "Utopia".

What we see here is the weaving together of all the threads that have played out in this first series.

The theme of the "Bad Wolf", the teasing little references that appeared in every story except "Rose", that is everywhere Rose went after joining the Doctor aboard the TARDIS…

(The Mox of Balhoon mentions the "Bad Wolf scenario" to the Face of Boe (who may in face be Captain Jack, who'd know); Gwyneth's vision for Rose includes "the things you've seen: the darkness, the big bad wolf; the words "Bad Wolf" are graffitied on the side of the TARDIS; Van Statten's helicopter call-sign is "Bad Wolf One"; the Face of Boe (again) appears on the Bad Wolf Channel; another graffiti, "Bad Wolf" is scrawled across on of the smiley-face posters that Rose and the Doctor pass as they approach the site of Pete's death; Captain Jack sits astride a German bomb stencilled with "Schlecter Wolf"; Margaret Slitheen's nuclear ambition is dubbed the Blaidd Drwg Project.)

…caught the public imagination in a way that the producers never imagined, spawning endless online speculations and even making the news so excited were the viewers.

And yet, in it's way, it's an incredible double-bluff. Yes, it's a flag that all these events are linked. But the real point is that all the things that we've seen on this "Trip of a Lifetime" are linked.

At the most basic, that means that the Daleks are back, but – unlike in their subsequent inevitable mass-resurrections and re-defeats – here that means something. It links into the ideas that were discussed in "Dalek", about the Doctor's guilt and deathwish.

The revelation that it's all taking place on Satellite 5 (a bit undermined by the "previously on…" of course) links us to "The Long Game" but it's also quite explicit that this is the Doctor finally confronted by the consequences of his run-away-before-I-have-to-pick-up-the-pieces lifestyle.

And "consequences", as I've said many times, are what Russell's Doctor Who is all about. (At least for so long as he remains on form.) Just as Captain Jack had to learn from "The Empty Child" that his actions have a tangible effect on the world around him, and that he's responsible for putting it right, so the Doctor must face up to the fact that he can't just wander through eternity taking no responsibility for what he leaves in his wake.

This is the conversation that he had with Margaret Slitheen in "Boom Town" re-written as "a hundred years of hell".

And here, as in "Aliens of London" Russell uses the implications of Time Travel to great effect: can you change History? Even one line? Mark Gatiss said so explicitly back in "The Unquiet Dead". Paul Cornell showed us what that might mean in "Fathers Day". And Russell clearly thinks so too, and he and other writers are going to spend quite a few subsequent episodes working out the implications of this and what can and can't be changed.

The irony that their reappearance means he's not after all guilty of genocide actually seems to give him the strength in the climax to confront his failure now that he's got a second chance.

Spotting the "Bad Wolf" references is easy. Russell's point though, is that television, good television, isn't about the fifteen-minutes-of-fame ephemera that "Big Brother", "Weakest Link", "What Not to Wear" and all their ilk have to offer. It should all tie together. It should make you work at it. It should make you think.

Television is the Big Bad Wolf; if it doesn't huff and puff and blow your doors in… what's the point?

Next Time...


…time's up. "The Parting of the Ways"


Friday, March 26, 2010

Day 3372: A REAL Digital Economy: My New Business Model for the Internet


It looks like the Times have already lost one reader, thanks to the announcement by Mr Roger Stavro Moredick that from June he'll be charging a pound a peep to look at his august organ.

Liberal Democrat Voice asks how the blogosphere will react, and I'm guessing: "goodbye and good riddance!" If the reactionary old digger WANTS to seal-off his mendacious, meretricious, propaganda rags in self-imposed exile from the rest of the web that's GOOD NEWS isn't it?

But if EVERYONE does that, then the Web Party is OVER!

So here's an idea that might be A BIT BETTER!

First, I have to ask: isn't there a way to run a news/media empire on the web AND make money?

From the Evil Empire's point of view, their news gathering organisation isn't getting any cheaper, but as the readership moves from print to online they get less advertising revenue per reader and NO sale revenue per reader, so it's lose-lose; charging for the online edition may see a big loss of readers (advertising revenue goes down further) but no one expects their readership to fall to NOTHING, so they get a new revenue stream.

From everybody else's point of view, the BBC, Gruaniad and Tell-lie-graph and the rest will all still be free-at-the-point-of-use, so what's the problem?

Well the "problem" is threefold: firstly how much do you WANT people to be putting things up on the net? This goes to the heart of the issue, not just news and comment but also music and movies and piracy.

I'm not saying that it should be a licence to print money, but producing content – gathering news, recording an album, filming Dr Woo's adventure – all costs money. Even hosting an online diary like mine has costs associated, which at the moment are picked up by Google (thanks you very much) but what if that doesn't last forever? Realistically NO ONE is going to just pour money down the drain merely for the dubious social benefit of, say, letting you read the "wisdom" of Mr Danny Finkenstein.

Secondly, and slightly more ABSTRACT, the Internet THRIVES on inter-connectivity. It's not called the Wibbly Wobbly Web for nothing! And anything that reduces that inter-connectedness reduces the Internet as a whole, reduces, however slightly, the amount of bouncing backwards-and-forwards of ideas. Think of it like this: would YOU like someone to cut off a chunk of your BRAIN?

And thirdly, if Mr Moredick actually makes a go of it, then it will quickly encourage other media providers to go down the same route, turning the WEB into a series of barely-connected ISLANDS.

Let's be honest, all Mr Moredick is concerned about it the MONEY. He's not making a news website for the good of personkind; he's not doing it as a result of peer pressure – actually there's a good chance that he WAS, but because he doesn't feel the peer-pressure is why he feels he can change the game. He's doing it because he thinks it will return more lucre than it costs.

The profits from newspapers have gone DOWN.

That's not JUST the fault of the Internet. Circulation has been declining for AGES, ever since television really, and there's just been a massive recession which has cut both the numbers of people buying papers (an obvious cheap thing to cut out) and the numbers of people advertising in newspapers (an obvious cheap thing to cut out).

Not that it's impossible to make money from newsprint as the rise of the Free Sheets like the Metro and now the London Evening Standard have shown. Though of course Free Sheets too cut into the circulation of the paid-for press.

BUT, if the profit goes down, Mr Moredick looks for a way to squeeze more out of it.

Let me just interject with one important point: "making money" ISN'T a DIRTY WORD. It isn't even TWO dirty words.

Liberals have LONG believed in TRADE, in people being able to benefit from their gifts and talents, bettering themselves by being able to exchange their abilities for then things that they need.

There's a bit of a habit of thinking of the Internet as a new SOCIALIST UTOPIA, where everything is available to everybody all the time for nothing. (Apart from the RUDE SITES!)

It's been said that "people are used to everything on the Internet being free". But this of course is NONSENSE.

People DO pay for the Internet, but they pay for it as a SUBSCRIPTION, whether it's handing over a monthly fee to their ISP or an hourly rate to their Internet Café. It's like a magnificent magazine, with infinite pages. Once you've paid up front, you expect to be able to flip though to whatever articles you like.

So the solution is so obvious I can't believe that no one has come up with it: your media providers should absorb your Internet providers.

People would take out a subscription for Timesonline (or BBConline or Grauniadonline or Virginonline etc…) and that would provide you with your access to the Internet. You would automatically get all the content of the Times website or the BBC website or whichever website you subscribed to.

And then here's the clever bit.

The service providers charge each other for all the people who visit.

You ascribe an agreed "micropayment" value to a webvisit and then the providers can sort it out between themselves – like the bank clearing system – who gets what cash at the end of the month.

So, suppose you subscribe with the BBC, say, and you click through to the Times's website, the Times keeps count of your page views and those of every other BBC subscriber (and every ITV subscriber or Virgin subscriber or Hackney Community Cable subscriber), and at the end of the month they add it all up and say to the BBC: we've had X-million visits from your subscribers, that's X-million micropayments that amounts to Y-million pounds please. (And in return, the BBC says, yes and we have had A-million visits from YOUR subscribers so that's B-million quid back to us; let's settle the difference.)

(From a data protection point of view, I'd just add that it would be best for a system that "counts them at the gate" – putting toll booths on the Information Superhighway as it were – rather than one that records every website and page that you visit. Just like Google and Microserf absolutely don't do.)

The HUGE advantage, as I see it, is that this places the REWARD on providing CONTENT rather than merely ACCESS. This wouldn't just promote more online content from existing providers, it would encourage webhosting – if you provide a free platform for, say, bloggers then the more bloggers you support, the more visits you get, the more subscription income you receive.

You could even think about having a system where the provider REIMBURSES money to the subscriber if they provide some content that generates a lot of click through.

In the LONGER term, once you HAVE a system like this in place, you can see how it could provide the beginnings of a way of rewarding artists directly for the exploitation of their online works, bypassing the NEED for music piracy. And the best possible outcome could see it as a replacement funding stream for even the BBC, if we can figure out the right micropayment rates to keep up the quality.

Could it work? I don’t know; I'm just a stuffed elephant – perhaps better netheads than MY fluffy one can tell.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Day 3370: Was it Fiscal Drag? No, He was Wearing a Suit and Tie!


It's been described as "the Phoney Budget" or "the Pointless Budget" or most mundanely merely "the FIRST Budget of 2010". But in all fairness it wasn't MUCH of a Budget at all, was it?

So Chancellor Sooty pulled a sickly-looking rabbit from the Stamp Duty hat; SLAPPED cider-drinkers with a hike in Sin Tax; TINKERED with a scheme here and a relief there; and then CLAIMED he had nothing to say on VAT, National Insurance, Income, Capital Gains or Inheritance Taxes.

Except SNEAKILY, all allowances and threasholds are frozen, effectively using inflation to snaffle taxes from everyone in work, thus hitting the lowest earners hardest.

It's what is called "FISCAL DRAG" or to use the professional jargon "stiffing you with a stealth tax".

Liberal Democrat Ms Julia Good-as-Goldsworthy spotted this before Chancellor Sooty sat down. Sadly, Mr Balloon did not. It's the 10p tax debacle all over again!

How it works: suppose you are left with £500 a month after taxes. You spend £300 renting your home, £150 on food, £40 on travelling to work and you're left with a tenner!

But then along comes inflation! Let's say it's 2%

So you now have £306 for rent, £153 for food, £40.80 on travel. Now your costs are £599.80, and your tenner has been reduced to 20p!

But don't worry! Your boss at work sees what's going on and gives you a 2% pay rise too: that's an extra £10, so you're back where you started.

EXCEPT… because the tax allowance hasn't changed, ALL of your pay rise gets taxed at basic rate (20%) so Chancellor Sooty gets £2 out of your payrise, and you are left with £8.20 at the end of the month.

Somehow you are 20% WORSE OFF!

But NO! I have forgotten the NATIONAL INSURANCE - which is IRONIC, because that is what Sooty WANTS us to do!

National Insurance is another tax of 11% (rising to 12% in 2011), so your REAL tax rate is 31% NOT 20%.

And THAT means that you are really left with just £7.10! Almost a THIRD less than you started with!

Did Chancellor Sooty, the Badger with the Briefcase, mention any of this in his statement? Funnily enough, he did not. As usual with Hard Labour, you had to look in the Red Book to find the truth.

This is, of course, the EXACT OPPOSITE of Liberal Democrat tax policy to RAISE the Personal Allowance, LIFTING people out of tax altogether and cutting taxes for EVERYONE.

No wonder Captain Clegg replied to the Budget saying:
"Britain needed a Budget that gave us honesty in spending and fairness in tax; we have got neither."
Not that anyone heard him, as the country's main television channel flopped back into Red/Blue DUOPOLY mode.

"1350 Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg is on his feet," said the BBC live text coverage, "but many MPs are leaving the House." And so was the BBC, cutting away to the studio where Nick "Mate of Dave" and Stephanie Flounders were competing to read out their notes. Sigh.

What about Mr Bunny, the Stamp Duty Rabbit? Will he be any help for First Time Buyers? No, because the problem is shortage of supply; and this is just fuelling demand. That money will just end up in the pockets of developers who build rabbit hutches, and will drive up house prices again. Anyone who asks "what could be wrong with a little house price inflation" can go and live though the last two years all over again.

And then Sooty tries to have Mr Bunny shoot one of the Liberal Democrats' foxes by "paying" for his tax cut by raising Stamp Duty on homes over one million pounds. I say "paying" but – again concealed in the Red Book – the figures say that the cut costs £290 million and the rise raises £90 million. Oops.

And no, Chancellor Sooty, that's NOT a Mansion Tax; that's a one-off payment for the transfer, NOT a tax on keeping wealth bundled up unproductively in a whopping great property.

All of which was just flim-flam and fireworks to disguise the fact that he's doing NOTHING MUCH, certainly not addressing the fundamental questions of why the Government is spending too much and too stupidly and why at the end of a decade of Hard Labour Government the poorest still bear the heaviest burden.

If they CARED they'd have DONE SOMETHING in the last THIRTEEN YEARS.

But speaking of flim-flam, Mr Balloon didn't have a lot to say in reply. Or rather, he did, as his GAG-MEISTERS had clearly been workshopping the sound-bites for him over the last weeks and months.
"They want to tax your car, your phone, your business, your jobs. "
...he said in a speech written for him in 1996 by Mr Rockin' Robin Cook.

But here's betting that THIS one makes the headlines
"This prime minister will never get a medal for courage, although it has to be said that most of his cabinet get mentioned in Dispatches."
Ooh, "Dispatches" – do you, as they say, see what he did there? Tee very hee.

But he didn't have any ANSWERS, just more RHETORIC.

His BIG accusation: "like every other Labour government throughout history they've bankrupted the country".

This is a meme that the Conservatories have been pushing REALLY HEAVILY for MONTHS now. And fair enough: Mr Callaghan was brought down by the "Winter of Discontent" and Mr Wilson oversaw devaluation, "the pound in your pocket", and economic turmoil. And Mr Attlee, saddled with bullying demands from Americaland to pay for the whole cost of World War Part II was forced to extend rationing!

So, let's face it, Old Labour had all the economic competence of a SMASHED BADGER who'd been trained in adding-up by Master Gideon Oboe!

But what about CONSERVATORY Governments?

Well, Mr Major Minor in the 1990s crashed out of the ERM in Black Friday and finished with Fatty Clarke tripling the national debt

Queen Maggie in the 1980s succeeded in spawning three successive recessions and the Poll Tax.

Mr Grocer Heath in the 1970's brought the country to a screaming standstill with the Three Day Week.

Mr Super-Mac MacMillan created the STOP-GO economy, struggled with the balance of payments crisis, lost control of unemployment and had to tell us "we'd never had it so good".

In fact, the last time the Treasury was in credit, was when Mr Lloyd George was in charge!

The Conservatories, either alone or in coalition, ran the United Kingdom almost continuously for MOST of the Twentieth Century, interrupted only briefly for Labour Governments. If they were ANY GOOD at fixing the economy, THEY WOULD HAVE DONE SO BY NOW.

Quite simply, the Conservatories ALWAYS leave the country in a mess which would inevitably cause the next Government to crash and burn, even if Mr King SOLOMON was Prime Monster with Mr King MIDAS was Chancellor.

EVERY Government – Hard Labour OR Conservatory – leaves the Country BANKRUPT. That's WHY they leave the Country! They get VOTED OUT!

And quite right too. This is a DEMOCRACY. When the Government runs out of ideas and energy, when they lose their economic competence, when they start being more interested in their own pensions than the interests of their constituents, THAT is when it is time for the people to put them out of our misery.

Of course, what's SUPPOSED to happen is that Her Majesty's Opposition use the time IN opposition to come up with NEW ideas… which is where it all breaks down this year.

Which is why it is not really any wonder that more than 30% of people want the Liberal Democrats' Mr Dr Vince "the Power" Cable as Chancellor.

Only the Liberal Democrats have been HONEST about the need for cuts – and WHERE those cuts will fall – and only the Liberal Democrats have the PRINCIPLES and the POLICIES to make the tax system FAIRER. Only the Liberal Democrats have any IDEAS what to do now!

This was the Budget where the Chancellor TINKERED while Rome burned.

But if you don't like this one, don't be upset. There'll be another one along in a minute.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Day 3365: Daddy's Letter to Labour


I am sure that you can guess just how THRILLED Daddy Richard would be to receive a really POSITIVE and HEART-WARMING message from the General Secretary of the Hard Labour Party.

Unfortunately, that's NOT what arrived in the post this week. Instead, and before the General Election campaign has even started, Hard Labour are already so PANICKED about the Liberal Democrats that they are using NEGATIVE CAMPAIGNING and DISTORTION to attack us!

So, once we'd peeled Daddy off the ceiling, we persuaded him to write a THANK YOU note, and maybe ask one or two little questions for clarification…
Daddy's House

18 March 2010

Mr Ray Collins
General Secretary,
The Labour Party,
39 Victoria Street,

Dear Mr Collins,

Thank you for the direct mail that I received from the Labour Party under your imprint on Wednesday 17th March with the headline "Lib Dem Leader: Thatcher Was Right".

Having read the full story, I now know that the correct quote was that Mrs Thatcher was right to take on vested interests. Mr Clegg continues that in her day this was in the form of the over-powerful Trades Unions who had caused so much disruption during the so-called "Winter of Discontent", and that today we should be taking on vested interests in the form of City bankers.

In 2007, Gordon Brown as Labour Leader and Prime Minister invited Lady Thatcher to Downing Street. He appeared on the doorstep with her and said that he admired her. He said:

"Whatever disagreements you have with her about certain policies […] we have got to understand that she saw the need for change."

I should therefore be grateful if you would answer me the following questions:

  1. Does the Labour Party not believe that we should take on the vested interests that cause inequality in Britain?
  2. Why has the Labour Party been in power for thirteen years and NOT tackled the vested interest of City bankers? Particularly given the recession that they have just caused?
  3. How can the Labour Party begin to oppose vested interests when it continues to remain heavily indebted to the Trades Unions? Is it not the case that the Party has received over £11 million from the Unite Union that is currently threatening so much disruption to people's holidays?
  4. Is it not fundamentally dishonest for the Labour Prime Minister to say Lady Thatcher was right about some things and for you then to distort the words of the Liberal Democrat Leader so that you can attack him for saying just the same? Why is the Labour Party already campaigning using deliberate distortions before a General Election has even been called?

I look forward to your reply, and shall be happy to forward it to the London Evening Standard and my local East London Advertiser, as I have with this letter.

Yours sincerely

Richard Flowers

PS: I assume that there will be no complaints from any member of the Labour Party about the use of bar-charts by any other Party since the one that you use on the reverse of your flyer so clearly distorts the relative percentages. I also see you have used the national average vote; were you perhaps afraid to use the ones for your formerly-safe seat in Tower Hamlets?

And here is the offensive… sorry offendING leaflet:

Lies...? Damned lies...?
Posted by Picasa

...or statistics?
Posted by Picasa

Incidentally, Chicken Yoghurt may have gotten there first with a very similar story.

Meanwhile, in COMPLETELY UNRELATED news, today Mr Balloon will – according to Conservatory Home – "invoke the spirit of Thatcher…" (this probably involves thirteen BLACK CANDLES and an unlucky GOAT – maybe Lord Pigby Jones or similar) "…in challenging the vested interests in the unions - and the big banks"

Hang on, that's practically a DIRECT QUOTE of Captain Clegg!

What does this involve?

"I can announce today that a Conservative government will introduce a new bank levy to pay back tax payers for the support they gave and to protect them in the future."

Hang on, that's practically a DIRECT QUOTE from Mr Dr Vince!

Look, it is perfectly simple: we welcome Mr Balloon's decision to campaign FOR Liberal Democrat Policies, and say this – it you WANT Liberal Democrat Policies, why not get them STRAIGHT from the people who THOUGHT THEM UP, rather than the people who have no ideas of their own.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Day 3360: Brum Brum


We've all been to Liberal Democrat Spring Conference in my new favourite city: BRUM, named after the famous CAR.

And what a BRILLIANT Conference the Liberal Democrats have had there! I've got LOADS to tell you: all the BIG IDEAS, a fair start, fair tax, fair politics and a fair amount of investment in green jobs too; lovely Sarah and Mr Vince; the economics and the promise of HOPE.

Daddy Alex gave a speech at Auntie Helen's fringe event and Daddy Richard was, for the first time ever, a voting representative which meant actually shaping new Liberal Democrat policy!

Daddy assures me that he used his badge very responsibly and did not at all go completely power-crazy!

His very first vote was in the ballot to pick Sunday morning's emergency motion where he supported the VERY IMPORTANT "Freedom, Creativity and the Internet" motion, which was narrowly chosen over a debate about Hard Labour cuts to the NHS.

This does NOT mean that supporting the NHS is not important to us, but we already have LOTS of good policy about Health, and the Internet policy was needed urgently as a response to the "Digital Economy Bill" (also known as the "Giving the Digit to the Internet Bill") and an ill-judged amendment supported by our Lords TweedleTim and TweedleTimmer.
What had happened was that the First Lord of Darkness, Mr Mandelbrot, had wanted to give himself LIMITLESS POWERS to police the Internet – or make himself Sherriff of Mandelson, as one debater put it – by blocking websites and cutting off innocent Internet users on a whim. The Lords Tim had said no, no that was wrong: big business should have to go to COURT to wield that sort of monstrous arbitrary power rather than just a minister. So, NEARLY right there, boys, but did you spot the DELIBERATE MISTAKE?

Of course, the REAL point is that NO ONE should have the power to censor the Internet, and that making Internet Service Providers into your SPIES and INFORMANTS (lest they get sued for unknowingly carrying something that just MIGHT be someone else's copyright) is going to CHILL a lot of freedom and creativity out of the Wibbly Wobbly Web, just like British Libel Laws are starting to CHILL scientific debate and decent journalism. And closing down people's websites without warning, not even a polite request to maybe not use the possibly-copyright material, is just plain RUDE.

We went on to debate all this first thing on Sunday morning, of course, which meant a VERY early start for my daddies if they were to eat their way all though the BREAKFAST BUFFET and still make it to the main hall in time!

It was an excellent debate, with excellent contributions from Mr Mark Reckons, Mr Dr Count Packula and Mr David.

And yes, I CAN say it was an excellent debate, even if all of the speakers spoke in favour, because all of the speakers raised DIFFERENT important points.

The most excellentest contribution, though, was from TOTALLY AWESOME Ms Bridget Foxy, Liberal Democrat PPC in Top Target seat of Islington, who – in addition to brilliantly leading the debate – had been up to Brum on Friday to join Daddy at the LDV fringe and then BACK to London that night to do a full ACTION DAY of campaigning in Islington on Saturday (do go and help her win Islington for the Liberal Democrats at Westminster as well as local level, if you can!) and then BACK AGAIN to Brum on Sunday morning to win the vote at the Conference.

This is why Lib Dems are ACE! We can mix GEOGRAPHICAL community politics with INTERNET community politics and fight for freedom and fairness in both.

More importantly, this is a HUGE example of how the Liberal Democrats are a Party where the members can make a REAL DEMOCRATIC DIFFERENCE! No sooner had the Lords make their mistake – and I do subscribe to the theory that it was a FLUFF UP rather than FOUL PLAY – than members were instantly responding in blog pieces and articles and letters to Lib Dem News. The Party in Parliament were already responding and then, thanks again to Ms Bridget, Conference was able to ACT.

The end result was an enormous win for the motion (maybe one or two hands raised to vote against, but the chair didn't seem to notice them). Hopefully this will help our team in Parliament fix this Bill before the Election gets called.

So, having helped to get the D E debate on the agenda, Daddy then stayed in the Conference Hall for a lot of the rest of the day, using his badge to support and amend motions, while also hearing speeches from awesome Mr Dr Vince and Lovely Sarah Teather.

What was particularly IMPRESSIVE was the JOINED-UP way that Liberal Democrat policies seemed to flow from one into the next.

Beginning with a FAIR START, an education policy to improve the life chances for everyone and get them into a position where they are better able to get better jobs, it follows naturally into SUPPORT FOR MANUFACTURING, so that there are GOOD JOBS for people to get!

A Fair Start for all school-kids is the first of the FOUR PRINCIPLES that Captain Clegg has laid out for our election campaign and the next Parliament, and NEW JOBS in GREEN industries is the second.

The City of Brum is FAMOUS for MAKING THINGS, not least CARS including the famous cat-monster brand of Jaguar, but also all sorts of things from custard and chocolate and HP Sauce to jewellery and Bakelite. Also two of Great Britain's famous failed banks were founded here (Lloyds Superbank wot we own, and Midland wot was bought up by the HSBC), but never mind that.

So it was GOOD to be debating the importance of reclaiming Great Britain's position as a manufacturing nation there in the Iron City. And Captain Clegg made a point of this in his big speech too, saying we need a change from an economy based just on City bankers gambling. The Captain pledged:
"Under the Liberal Democrats, it WILL change. No longer just betting on things, we will start Britain building things again."
He spoke, too, of his hope that former shipyards could be retooled to build the wind-turbines and wave-power generators of the future.

And you can therefore see how LOGICAL it is to carry on from Liberal Democrat hopes for a revival in our inventive, creative industries to our plans to confront the Climate Crisis in the debate on CLIMATE CHANGE AFTER COPENHAGEN.

Recognizing that the next Parliament may be our LAST CHANCE to save the PLANET, we refused to be STUFFED by the total STITCH UP between Americaland and China that was the Copenhagen Agreement. Instead, Liberal Democrats, the only TRULY INTERNATIONALIST Party, want to use our key place in the European Parliament to get Europe to move further and faster in cutting emissions and investing in the new post-recession GREEN ECONOMY.

Europe is the World's LARGEST trading bloc and together we have the economic muscle to make a difference. And this doesn't have to be an economic BURDEN – no matter what some environmental DINOSAURS seem to think (and remember what happened to the Dinosaurs! OK, they got hit by a ROCK, but that's PRETTY CLOSE to getting done in by catastrophic climate change) – no, it can be an OPPORTUNITY because there are jobs and savings and profits to be made, rewards to be claimed for getting in there in the new green economy.

And the excellent amendment, accepted by the movers, calls on Local Councils to invest in green projects, including purchasing electric and LPG vehicles, which isn't just a great example of "think global act local" but also ties back in with the support for manufacturing and new green jobs initiatives.

The THIRD pillar of our principles, then, is bringing FAIR TAXES, and we debated those in the afternoon.

The main aim here is to raise the personal allowance to ten thousand pounds: that is, no one pays any tax on the first ten thousand pounds that they earn.

People with lower incomes tend to SPEND extra money first, unlike people on higher incomes who are more likely to save it. So a tax cut here means more spending which means a boost to the economy. See how this ties in with support for new green jobs already?

To pay for giving this money back we would: shift the tax burden onto polluters with green taxes on aviation; equalise the rate paid on Capital Gains with the rate paid on income (putting this back to how it used to be, so the richest can't use property as a tax dodge); abolish the EXTRA credit that higher rate taxpayers get back for paying into a pension fund (so they just get the same credit as everyone else); crack down on other tax avoidance; and introduce the a mansion tax on homes costing more than two million pounds.

I'll just present the DOWNSIDE: This is based on what we think is AFFORDABLE. A person over 22 has a minimum wage of £5.80 an hour. So working full time (48 hours a week, per the European Working Time Directive) for 52 weeks a year they would earn £14,477, and therefore, they CURRENTLY have to pay £1,600 a year or £31 a week. EVEN under the Liberal Democrat tax cut, they would STILL have to pay tax of £895 a year or £17 a week. (There's National Insurance to pay too, but that's not changed.)

I hope we all realise that that is WRONG – you shouldn't be on the MINIMUM income and STILL have to pay tax.

However, seven hundred pounds a year (in fact £705) for EVERYONE is a SUBSTANTIAL cut in tax, and one that hopefully will help stimulate spending by putting pounds in people's pockets (unlike the Hard Labour VAT cut which gave the cash to the retailers rather than the workers).

Cutting tax for people who earn less paid for by people who earn more or who own more is FAIR. And it is easy to understand: making tax SIMPLER makes the system FAIRER too, because it means that fewer people pay too much tax, or miss out on complicated tax credits or means-tested benefits. A system that is simpler means less BUREAUCRACY for businesses and fewer forms to fill in for tax payers. And it is more HONEST to have a TRANSPARENT system, rather than disguising how much people pay or don't pay in a system that no one properly understands.

The OTHER tax thing that we would do is abolish Council Tax altogether… well, not at once; there would be trials first, but we'd get rid of it and replace it with a fairer local income tax.

Some people have pointed out what looks like a contradiction in introducing one property tax, the Mansion Tax, while revoking another, the Council Tax. However, that's not quite true, because the Mansion Tax does take into account ability to pay by allowing people to roll over the tax until the property is disposed of. The Mansion Tax is really a genuine tax on WEALTH, designed to pass the burden of taxes onto those who HAVE MOST, with the side benefit that it can stop money being bundled unproductively up into property; the Council Tax, on the other fluffy foot, is not much better than a moderately-banded POLL TAX: properties in Band H pay only about three times what properties in Band A do, in spite of being worth at least ten times as much, and of course the sort of properties that would get taxed by the Mansion Tax are worth FIFTY times as much, or more… and still only pay the same Band H rate (or Bank I in Wales).

A properly FAIR tax system needs to be BALANCED between taxes on WEALTH (or property) and on INCOME, so that very rich people cannot avoid paying their fair share by shovelling their money away into land or investments.

Also, the idea is that both tax changes should be broadly NEUTRAL – that is, the cuts in taxes are all paid for by raising other taxes. In practice, this means some people should pay more and other people should pay less – which makes for a rather REDISTRIBUTIVE change, with the much better off helping the middle- and the less well off more.

The only ADDITIONAL tax that we would raise – OK, OK, the only tax that we have PLANS to raise (and yes, I know that that raises all the heckles of anyone who remembers that "we have no plans to raise VAT" is Conservatory code for "we will raise VAT") is a levy on the banks as a charge against their profits for the implicit (or even EXPLICIT) support that they have received from the taxpayer to stop them all going BUST. This money would be used to reduce the huge budget deficit.

Captain Clegg was quite clear about this when he answered Mr James Graham's question in the Q&A on Saturday afternoon.

That Q&A was quite fun, with the Captain trying to capture some of the feel of his "Town Hall" meet-the-voters sessions that have gone so well. And it wasn't like he didn't face some proper sticky questions from the Lib Dem audience, although no one was interested in the meeja's favourite question: "who to get into bed with in a Hung Parliament" – funny that!

However, the real star turns were from the Sainted Mr Dr Vince, who received a standing ovation just for entering the room, and the Lovely Sarah.

It is an interesting and possibly depressing thing that the Housing Brief is, like Lovely Sarah and me, easily overlooked. Which is a SHAME because actually housing is at the root of an awful lot of things that have gone horribly WRONG.

The Conservatory "right to buy" scheme of Queen Maggie – linked to her refusing to allow councils to build NEW properties – critically reduced the availability of social housing, creating a short term fillip to the economy at the cost of keeping families on waiting lists for years and years into the future. Planning regulations that concentrate on not letting cities grow bigger at the expense of not caring whether developers build rabbit hutches mean we have some of the teeniest and therefore unhealthiest living conditions in Europe and encouraged house builders to profit by keeping the supply of houses less than the demand. Then the shortage of housing drove up house prices, trapping more people, young first-time buyers (or rather not-buyers) and low earners, in rented accommodation or their parents' homes by pulling the "housing ladder" up after the lucky existing homeowners while simultaneously fuelling the economic bubble that just blew our economy to pieces. And now the rumour is that the Conservatories want to let social housing rents "float" up to the cost of private rental, meaning even more people will have no choice but to go onto Housing Benefit because work doesn't pay enough to let them live.

Or as Lovely Sarah puts it:
"Put poor people into worse housing, and make them pay more for it. That's it. That's the Tory big idea."
It was a REALLY good speech, full of the sort of passion that comes from real anger about seeing her constituents repeatedly ground down by the failure of Hard Labour and Conservatory housing policy, and with a solid promise that the Liberal Democrats would do better: over a billion pounds to bring a quarter of a million empty houses back into use, real investment that would create jobs in construction as well as liberate families from the waiting lists.

After the election in 1997, Lovely Sarah reminded us, Lord Blairimort travelled to one of the poorest estates in the country and pledged to stand up for the forgotten people. Well he BROKE that pledge, and Hard Labour FORGOT the "forgotten people".

Hard Labour forgot them, but WE haven't. We have the principles and the policies to bring them HOPE again.
"That's why, when we are out day after day, knocking, stuffing, delivering, phoning, when we are using energy even we didn't know we could muster, that's what keeps us going."
This theme of the Liberal Democrats being the party of HOPE re-echoed what Mr Dr Vince had been saying earlier.

Now, Mr Dr Vince is probably the only politician in the country who can announce big cuts in spending and still get cheers. It's in the WAY that he does it. He lays things out openly and honestly and expects to consult people. Identify savings and debate them in public. This he contrasted with Conservatory butchering the public services in private, telling us nothing up front, and with Hard Labour's living in total denial about the need for cuts at all.

And he DID spell out lots of the ways that he would make savings, gaining particular cheers for pledges to kick the current Government's habit of costly consultants and to end the expensive, illiberal databases.

Limiting public pay awards to a cash sum, four hundred pounds, rather than a percentage is good economics: it means that you CAN still give a rise that is helps the lowest earners without wasting money on one that the better off can scrape by without. And it's also good politics because you don't look like you are rewarding the already-rich elite. No thousand pounds a year pay rises for MPs under Chancellor Vince!

He's not afraid to remind people that we got things RIGHT. We warned the Government about important things like the housing bubble and the personal debt mountain, we were first to point out the need to nationalise the banks, and we told the Government that they should crack down on the bonus culture. As Chancellor and the Prime Monster, Mr Frown didn't listen to us. Heck, he didn't even listen to his OWN advice: Prudence was abandoned; Golden Rules were fudged and ignored. THAT is why Hard Labour failed.

But Mr Dr Vince also castigated the Conservatories for making SINISTER threats of financial meltdown in the event of a hung Parliament.
"Playing fast and loose with the financial stability of this country for political gain – destabilising the markets – is dangerous, irresponsible and wrong."
Captain Clegg returned to this subject too, referring to the Conservatories as Britain's first OFFSHORE Political Party and their scare tactics as no more than a PROTECTION RACKET!

But Mr Dr Vince ALSO said that Liberal Democrats would be the Party offering HOPE: a new National Investment Bank to channel funds into new green jobs, a tax cut of seven hundred pounds a year for lower and middle earners, and above all an HONESTY about the way out of the deepest debt crisis that the country has ever been in.

People, he said, would accept austerity – for a time – so long as you were honest and fair. They will not accept it "from a government that imposes hardship on the majority while rewarding rich cronies, grovelling to tax exiles and non-doms and ignoring the widening inequalities in income and wealth. " I wonder WHO he could mean!

Which sort of brings us to the fourth of our key principals principles: making politics FAIR, LOCAL AND HONEST again, and we debated this on Sunday morning (after the emergency D E Bill debate) setting out a clear, ten-point plan:

  • Fair votes
  • Right of Recall
  • Fixed term Parliaments
  • A proper expenses system
  • If you want to sit in Parliament you should pay your tax in Britain
  • The ability to investigate and revoke peerages
  • An elected second chamber
  • A hundred and fifty FEWER MPs
  • Parliamentary oversight of Executive powers
  • Stronger devolution
We would also give more power back to local people, power over schools and hospitals and police, abolishing Hard Labour's QUANGOs and Targets while rebuilding the whole idea of local banking to support infrastructure and business.

So there we have them, our FOUR KEY PRINCIPLES for the coming election, all tied together and joined up so that each makes more sense together with the others. Quick recap:
  1. A Fair Start for all kids with a pupil premium for schools to invest in the least well off;
  2. A rebalanced, fair economy with investment in new green jobs to start the country growing again after Hard Labour's recession;
  3. A Fair tax system with no tax to pay on the first ten thousand pounds you earn; and
  4. Cleaned up politics including Fair Votes, a smaller parliament, no more unelected second chamber so no more cronies and the ability to sack your MP if they let you down.

The REALLY good thing about these four is that they are THE RIGHT SIZE for the telenews to quote all four IN FULL. Which they DID! Which then makes our opponents look like right IDIOTS when they arrogantly trot out their usual refrain of "we don't know what the Lib Dems stand for". YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN LISTENING THEN, you maroons!

It has in fact been a GREAT conference for coverage all over. We started with the news that a lady who used to make RUDE FILMS has switched to the much more SCANDALOUS profession of politics, which was quick to grab the headlines of the easily TITILLATED TABLOIDS (er, Grauniad and Independent and, for shame, BBC).

We also scored the coup of former senior Conservatory and widely-respected MEP Mr Edward Macmillan-Scott defecting to the Liberal Democrats because of the bonkers company that Mr Balloon chooses to keep in the European Parliament. His line: "I used to be a liberal Conservative; now I am a conservative Liberal." And I can live with that.

And we finished with Captain Clegg getting the top spot on the news.

Our opponents certainly don't know what to do, with BOTH Hard Labour's Mr Lord "He's No" Adonis and Conservatory former Secretary of State for tripling the national debt, Mr Fatty Clarke appearing on Mr Andy Marrmite's show to claim that "naturally" we are closer to THEM.

("Naturally", they are of course closer to EACH OTHER – both being right-wing, pro-war authoritarian Parties that suck up to billionaires and bankers and have no idea whatsoever about how to repair the economy.)

Both of them seem to have lost track of the meaning of WORDS in the English Language. Mr Lord "Who Mourns for" Adonis asserting (to general guffaws) that Hard Labour are a "socially liberal" party – clearly it's been a while since he understood EITHER Socialism OR Liberalism.

Meanwhile, Mr Fatty Clarke thought that "the risk of a hung parliament" was why "the Liberals are in such a dilemma" and he said this as though he meant we were split or confused or somehow damaged by the accusation.

Technically I suppose a "dilemma" is "a choice between two undesirable alternatives" which might sort of be right, though it seems, er, unlikely that Mr Clarke was admitting that the Conservatories are UNDESIRABLE.

He went on to make the usual over-proud blandishments that we need a "strong Government" to get us out f this "financial calamity", like it wasn't a "strong Government", one that didn't have to listen to anyone else, that got us IN to this "financial calamity"!

Equally ARROGANT is the claim by Mr Wendy Alexander that we had "admitted" that there will be a Hard Labour or a Conservatory Government after the election.

Captain Clegg, of course, has said NO SUCH THING. What he has said – and quite right too – is that it is up to the Great British PEOPLE to decide – they, we, you are the kingmakers – and whoever has the strongest mandate has the right to govern.

THAT COULD MEAN US, almost as easily as one of those two tired old Authoritarian Parties.

Maybe it won't. Maybe you don't think that is very CREDIBLE and maybe it's not. But that's NOT to say that it CANNOT be the people's choice. No, that would be ARROGANT PRESUMPTION, taking the people for granted, yet again. Basically, TYPICAL Hard Labour, thinking that THEY know better than everybody else.

Not that Ms Teresa May Not was any more sensible, with her silly gabbling that "they don't know how to fix the economy; they don't know where they are on cuts; they don't know where they are on ring fencing…" Mr Dr Vince EXPLICITLY ruled out ring fencing – we've never believed in it, and we have to look everywhere to find all the savings that we can. She more accurately describes her OWN side's (complete lack of) economic policies.

And then there was the SURPRISE news that the sinister minister, Mr Jack Man'O Straw was to announce plans to abolish the House of Lords Club, as though this was some special treat to tempt us (and to leave Mr Balloon looking like defender of the fuddy-duddies). I think President Ros put it best:
"Elected House of Lords, Mr Man'O Straw? Bring it on!"
So, while the other Parties continue to swing all over the place – one minute deciding they are just like us, the next claiming that we are completely anathema to them; one minute saying that we are irrelevant; the next clearly we are important enough that they want to flatter and lovebomb us – the Liberal Democrats keep a clear and consistent line, setting out our principles and policies and promises to the Great British public.

Because we're NOT like the other Parties. As Captain Clegg put it in his speech:
"People say all politicians are the same. They are not. Of course, Liberal Democrats are not perfect. But no Liberal Democrat MP "flipped" their home in this way. None of our outer London MPs even claimed a second home allowance. And it was Liberal Democrats who fought Labour and Conservative attempts to keep the scandal hidden. So don't let them tell you we are all the same because it isn't true."
Or, as I heard one representative put it:
"We're CLEAN, we're GREEN, we're KEEN… to work for you."

And now, here is Captain Clegg's big speech and, we all thought, one of his best:

…with text here, courtesy of Liberal Democrat Voice.


People wanted to know who Captain Clegg had been SNOGGING to get his Husky Conference Voice™. But apparently it was down to the AIR-CONDITIONING. No, do not ask: I do not know why he was snogging the air-conditioning.


Monday, March 01, 2010

Day 3347: National Christian Pi Week!


Happy March, and this week, it is Great British Pi Week, and, as a celebration of our Christian heritage, for one week only, π will equal its Biblical value of 3 exactly.

Get your condensed circles while they last!

Around the World in a mere 76 days!

Almost 5% less football (also: cricket, tennis, golf, snooker – does not apply to Rugby as that is a game played by men with odd shaped balls… …what?!)

Cuddly Cthulhu endorses this non-Euclidean geometry. Please enjoy your pies responsibly.