A couple of stories from the election I thought I’d follow up on. I also have this handy wee chart with which you can work out who to vote for.
Nicola Sturgeons Ferrero Rocher
There is for example the story of Nicola Sturgeon’s Ferrero Rocher moment, and her supposed comments to a French ambassador, suggesting that she’d prefer a Cameron government rather than a labour win.
I could potentially see her saying that she’d prefer Cameron because he’s an incompetent upper class twit who could screw up a cup of coffee, very likely be propped up by UKIP and his in/out EU referendum would put Scottish independence back on the agenda. But that’s hardly a ringing endorsement of the Tories.
And even here, the facts don’t quite add up. The Journalism behind this story is described as dodgy suggesting this was more a case of the Tories chums in certain newspapers rushing something out to try and discredit Sturgeon after her strong performance in the debates put them into a panic.
It is perhaps more a sign of how increasingly desperate the Tories are becoming, rather that anything indicative of SNP policy.
The Tories also attacked Labour over Trident, claiming they are the only party committed to renewing the current system come what may. However, this is exactly the problem with their policy, I would argue.
Aside from the more obvious question, do we really want to spend £25 billion on a weapon system we’ll never use…unless we’re all dead! But even if you agree the UK needs nuclear weapons, there are other options. For example fixed silos based on land, or mobile land based missiles.
You could look at copying the Indian policy who plan to use submarines with both attack capability, nuclear ballistic missile systems and cruise missile launch systems. There’s the option of greater co-operation with the French, or indeed with the US. Perhaps buying off either state a license built set of submarines, rather than developing our own one. And of course the option of reducing the number of subs.
Its worth putting all of these options on the table as its likely the security situation will change in the next few decades. As I’ve pointed out before a UK leaving the EU or Scottish independence (which becomes more likely if the UK leaves the EU) would drastically change things as it would mean the loss of air cover over the North sea. Cuts to the Royal navy already make it questionable as to whether they could hold the sea space under which the submarines patrol. And blowing the next twenty years of RN money on subs is unlikely to help. Its entirely possible the Trident fleet could be rendered an expensive fleet in being in a few decades time, if certain events happen.
Equally, the growing capability of missile interceptors also threatens to change things. It could well mean the safest place to store the missiles would be land based silos protected by an ABM system, not at sea.
So I’d rather vote for a party whose willing to put all the cards on the table, than one who is committed to bet everything on black. A policy that basically may not work and will waste a lot of money and risk the country’s national security finding out.
Retire before you die
There was a good article out this week from Comedian Frankie Boyle about retirement ages which is worth a read. As always expect his style of dark humour.
The Tories are claiming that they’ll find an extra £8 Billion to close the NHS funding gap….Or perhaps the headline should be, the Tories admit they’ve been drastically underfunding the NHS for years.
Of course they are being somewhat guarded as to how they’ll do it. I’m assuming they plan to feel down the back of their sofa’s :P. However the reality, as I mentioned in a prior post, is that this is a drop in the ocean compared to the levels NHS funding actually needs to be increased by.
This would imply an 8% rise in NHS spending, which would be easily wiped out by inflation and the increasing healthcare costs of the UK’s rising population and ageing population. Instead the NHS needs something of a serious overhaul and yes that will be expensive. So much so I can’t see how its possible without a tax rise.
So any party, Tory or labour, claiming they can fix the NHS without pushing up taxes is so deluded they need to visit their local NHS hospital and seek out mental health services :crazy:.
One story not making the election news is unfortunately the issue of property. A survey out recently suggested that buy-to-let landlords have seen returns as high as 1,400% since 1996. Now you might well say, well good on them. But consider the consequences.
Firstly, its making it impossible for young first time buyers to get on the property ladder, which is leading to all sorts of inequality. It also means young families need to get a job with a certain income, or its simply not worth their while giving up the DSS or the Council house. So this is putting a burden on the state, as often the state is effectively subsidising these profits by landlords.
Secondly, in case anyone’s got a bad memory, we just had a financial crisis caused by rampant property speculation that almost crashed the entire financial system. So repeating this mistake doesn’t sound like a great idea to me.
Part of the problem with property is that amounts to unhedged commodity speculation. This is one of the riskiest things you can do with money. Get it right and you can win big. Screw it up and you can loose more money than you originally invested. This is why market traders are actually forbidden by the rules from engaging in this sort of speculation, as it can (and has) brought down banks. Essentially what the financial crisis amounted too was the banks getting us to do the speculating for them, essentially bypassing the measures intended to prevent this.
And in other parts of the EU, such as Ireland and Spain we can see what’s likely to happen if things go wrong. Many who bought at the wrong time, often for investment purposes, are now stuck with property they can neither sell nor rent at a rate that will pay the mortgage. Its one of the reasons many in these countries have seen their finances crippled and retirement in the long term rendered impossible.
So while it might be unpopular for the parties to pledge to doing something about it, e.g. tighter regulation of letting agents, new taxes on private renting, more spending on council houses and schemes to encourage more affordable homes. But in the long term the country would be better off.
Clegg phobia and AV
As I mentioned in a prior post, there is a risk that Nick Clegg could loose his seat in Sheffield, thanks to lots of angry students, as his party becomes the liberal democrat….note lack of plural ;D. He is currently 2 points behind labour. However, it should be remembered that the Tories have a strong showing in that district, UKIP and the Greens have been gaining support, so there is an outside chance these other parties could dilute the anti-Clegg vote.
Although I can’t help but point out that if we had the Alternative Vote system he proposed, then its very likely he’d be unseated. The irony! That said I still think the AV system, or better still Proportional Representation, would work out as a better system and a fairer one.
Indeed the Tories will probably be wishing that AV did go through, as their major problem is going to be loosing votes to UKIP in marginal constituencies. Equally the many Scottish Labour supporters who campaigned against AV wouldn’t be facing total wipe out from the SNP if AV existed. So long as they got enough support to prevent a first round SNP win, they’d probably mop up most of the second round votes and take the seat. Pay backs a bitch ain’t it!
Death and taxes
The Tories are talking about scrapping inheritance tax. This is an all too common tactic of the sorts of tea party types in the US…ignoring that one of the reasons why the US colonies broke away from Britain was the lack of any estate tax in the US, allowing wealthy British non-doms to hold all the wealth and power in the colonies, while paying very little if any tax.
The reality is that inheritance tax is one of the fairest taxes you can impose. After all its only charged when you’re dead. And its only applied to the estates of the wealthy, so most people are exempt (I understand the minimum threashold in the UK is about £1m). And its not as if you can take it with you anyway? Or are Cameron and his posh buddies planning on building vast pyramids in the Cotswolds and be buried with all their wealth?…perhaps they’ll also entomb him with Osborne, Farage and Boris Johnson, so they can worship him for all eternity :)).
Speaking of which, rather fortunately, UKIP have been fairly quiet during this election. Perhaps because they realise that any publicity for them tends to be bad publicity. Put their candidates in front of a microphone and they’ll go on and on about how they have to watch what they say, in case they say something racist….then say something racist (its all the fault of em Paki journalists….oh! Damn! There I go again! :)))
About the only story of merit so far has been in relation to one of them getting in trouble with the electoral commission for handing out free sausage rolls. Or another
local racist loon UKIP candidate who suggested a lib dem candidate caught HIV on purpose to help get elected.
They’ve also taken a hit due to an endorsement from one of the stars of TOWIE….who is so dumb he can’t pronounce the term Democrats (too many syllables, you can see his little mind struggle with that one!).
Kidd on Top
Okay not an election story but worth including. I’ve been avoiding the whole business of Top Gear and who will replace Clarkson, or whether he’ll just buy the rights and set up on some other TV channel.
However I happened to catch Fifth Gear the other night and it had Jodie Kidd on it (talking about some James Bond cars) and I have to say she seemed much better at the job than Clarkson ever was, so she’s got my vote. Although the current rumour mill is it will be Sue Perkins.
Of course there in lie the problem. Quite a number of Clarkson’s fans are the chauvinistic types who regard their car as little more than a “extension” of their inadaquately sized body parts, and who would find their manhood offended by the thought of a woman talking about cars in that sort of way. And suffice to say putting a lesbian comedian in charge would not go down well with the petrol-head brigade.