The Wilted Rose

Charting Labour meltdown 2007-2010

Nadine Dorries MP – “The War of the Mediums”

Nadine Dorries MP has an excellent post on blogging and journalists’ fears of blogging threatening their hegemony.  I would heartily concur with what she says.  For example,

Take care, your first blog may highlight to newspaper editors everywhere how badly journalists – who are paid huge sums of money with vast liquid expense accounts – actually write; and even more alarmingly, how long it takes them to write it.

For more of the same, please click on the link above.

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25 June, 2008 Posted by | politics | , | Leave a comment

£6.50 an hour is hardly ‘social justice’

Low-paid council workers are right to strike for better wages in the current economic context.  And yet there are many economic fallacies – in fact, outright lies – being bandied about by the treacherous, traitorous Labour Government.  These are the very people who have suffered most as a result of 11 years of Brownian economic policy: and yet many of them will have rejoiced at Blair’s 1997 election victory and will have faithfully voted Labour in every subsequent election.

Why do I support a strike by UNISON members?  Because improving the pay of the low paid in the economic climate caused by Brownian-Darlingian economic mismanagement, the ‘credit crisis’ and rising prices is morally right and socially just. 

Let’s clarify two facts to begin with.  First, 250,000 low-paid public sector workers on £6.50 an hour (of whom 75% are women, according to UNISON) have rejected a derisory 2.45% pay offer.  So it’s not just about low-paid workers (on around £13k a year for a 40-hour week) who need improved pay in order to be able to pay the bills, school uniforms, mortgage or rent etc, but it’s about equal pay for women.  These workers provide essential services such as:

social workers, housing benefit workers, rent collectors refuse workers, school meals staff, teaching assistants, cooks, cleaners, architects and surveyors.

These workers have been hammered by the 10p tax rate debacle and by other factors such as rising petrol and food prices.  They’re now seeking a 6%, or 50p an hour, increase in their pay.  Darling’s attitude is that, ‘we have introduced the minimum wage so there.’  However, it was never supposed to be a maximum wage. 

Second, the economic fallacy that increasing the wages of low-paid public sector workers would be inflationary.  This is an outright lie.  This is a small part of the workforce which is in the public sector – therefore, their wage increases do not increase prices of private sector goods and services. 

Yes, the money would have to come from somewhere – council tax or from Central Government – but it is simply not right to say that this scenario is similar to the 1970s winter of discontent.  There is no hyperinflation like then and food price rises are largely due to external factors as well as the actions of City speculators and the biofuel industry, as last night’s Dispatches reported.

So there will be a strike and hopefully the Government and the councils’ employer association will see sense on this matter.  And save these low-paid workers from financial ruin.  But let’s not forget that the Government has got these workers into this mess with its policies. 

UNISON should have broken its links with the Labour Party in the interests of its members – do low-paid union members really wish to see their money go into the coffers of the Government that has ruined them?  And the union should not bankroll Labour at the next election – all they’ll get is slapped in the face.

Amazing as may sound to many trade unionists, the interests of UNISON members would be better served by a Government that implements radical low-tax policies for low-paid workers (as advocated by Conservative Home’s Tim Montgomerie).  If public sector workers on £6.50 an hour could keep more of their own money, then there wouldn’t be any need for this strike. 

24 June, 2008 Posted by | Alistair Darling, economy, Gordon Brown, Labour Party, politics, taxation | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No, Brown, it was Labour’s abolition of grammar schools that caused social immobility

An article in the Telegraph today reports Brown’s forthcoming speech to “education leaders” alleging that Maggie caused the UK’s chronic social immobility.  I would be one of the last people to defend the ‘means to the end’ of restructuring the economy in the 1980s, given that my father was made redundant from his manufacturing job in 1985 – never to work again – but I think Brown’s argument is ludicrous.

As Ordovicius rightly points out:

Is this the best Brown can come up with after one year at number 10 and ten years as Chancellor? Will David Cameron respond by blaming Callaghan for the UK’s woes? Me thinks not.

And Glyn Davies notes that:

After 11 years of Labour Government in which Gordon Brown has controlled the public finances, British people born poor stay poor. Even in the area where his rhetoric is strongest, the Prime Minister’s performance is failure. And what is he proposing to reverse this. Some quite small scale pilot projects, the one being given prominence by the BBC being to give public money to families who join schemes which include health checks and nutritional advice to improve social development. I’m not going to disagree with this until I see what evidence the proposal is based on – but it does smack of Gordon Brown’s belief that just throwing public money at every problem is the answer. But by trying to throw all the blame on a woman, who was ten times the man he is, Gordon Brown has diminished himself in the eyes of the British people today.

Beautifully put, Glyn.

Apart from the fact that Brown seems to unwilling for his party or himself to take any responsibility for their 11 years in government, the article highlights a few other reasons why Tories will feel justified in branding him a hypocrite…

There were winners and losers from the Thatcherite economic policies, but those policies have continued unabated – under Labour, hundreds of thousands (if not millions?) of manufacturing jobs have been lost, as the economy continues to become ever more dependent upon services and outsources (and imports) from the developing world.  Developing countries, such as China and India, have benefited from their ability to manufacture cheaply, though they have replaced the manufacturing workforce of the UK.  However, you will be shocked if you watch tonight’s Panorama exposé on child labour in a Primark subcontractor in India.

Back to the point, does living in a workless household preclude social mobility?  It didn’t for me.  I went to university – tens of thousands of working-class kids (even when the parents’ jobs had gone) in Northern Ireland go to good schools, and then often on to university.

And what happens if you’re a bright working-class kid in most parts of England?  Tough luck is the official policy, unless you happen to live in Trafford (3 cheers to Graham Brady!), Kent, Buckinghamshire (3 cheers to Dominic Grieve!).  You can go to a grammar school, that’s what.  If you don’t live in such an area, tough luck, that’s what Ed Balls is basically saying.

Shirley Williams lost her Hertford & Stevenage seat in the 1979 general election not without good reason.  She was the Labour Secretary of State for Education Minister who pushed through the closure of many grammar schools.

I’m not a Thatcherite (Reason: Anglo-Irish Agreement) and I’m not going to defend Maggie under whose watch as Tory Secretary of State for Education many grammar schools were closed too.  But this was in the Heath administration, 1970-1974, which has to rate as one of the worst Conservative Governments – Heath took the UK into the then EEC, after all.

But Brown can’t blame Maggie for social immobility.  It was Labour’s abolition of grammar schools that has caused social immobility – that, for example, means that many bright black Caribbean kids in the tower-blocks in London can’t get a decent education and a chance in life.  And if they do work hard, like Damilola Taylor they get murdered when coming back from the library for being too ‘clever’, or like Stephen Lawrence simply for being black?

I’ve said before that the Tories have annoyed me lately, but better they than Labour, the grammar school abolishers: and Michael Gove has restored at least some confidence.  Melanie Phillips highlights that there may be ‘some hope’ for bright working-class kids (including children from workless households),

On a visit last week to Trafford, which maintains both selective and comprehensive schools, the Tory schools spokesman Michael Gove declared robustly that grammar schools must be ‘absolutely defended’. …

… All Mr Gove needs to do is move his geographical pointer a bit farther along the map to the Netherlands to find a progressive country where selective schools are part of an education system driven, as it should be, by parental choice rather than state control.

Academic selection lies at the very heart of intellectual achievement, social justice and individual aspiration. They are impossible without it. That’s why it is a totemic issue by which any party aspiring to government must be judged.

I wouldn’t have got to university had it not been for Foyle & Londonderry College, my grammar school, but Brown ‘n’ Balls would have denied me this opportunity had they the chance.  It is Labour that is the true enemy of social mobility.

UPDATE TUESDAY, 12.06PM: There’s an excellent article in today’s Times by Stephen Pollard on the same theme as this post..

23 June, 2008 Posted by | education, Gordon Brown, Labour Party, politics | , , , | Leave a comment

The case for new grammar schools – and not just in Bucks

12.01pm Update: I am furious about Labour’s approach to grammar schools, after seeing the rubbish from Ed ‘So What?’ Balls on the front of the Telegraph this morning.  Here is an excellent blog from The Last Boy Scout:

I think Mr Balls needs a reality check. Instead of trying to improve the standard of the Secondary modern schools, he goes for the easier option of attacking the grammars. He even had the nerve to suuggest that “the system [of academic selection] left secondary modern pupils feeling as if they were failures” when they were unsuccessful in their applications.

The whole speech yesterday was a bit rich coming from the Schools Secretary after just last week he asked for “the help of grammar schools in raising standards at the 638 schools where fewer than 30 per cent of pupils achieve five good GCSEs“. So in just a week he has gone from saying that grammar can help solve the problem, to blaming them as being part of the problem.

Today in the Telegraph you will read that 1 in 20 white boys go to university, compared to 66% of Indian girls.  Even more heartbreaking, fewer than 1 in 20 black Caribbean boys make it to university.  People came from Jamaica, Trinidad and elsewhere for opportunity – but they don’t get equality of opportunity in the UK today. 

Social breakdown is happening partly because the ladders of opportunity – whether Employment or Education – have been kicked away from many of our youngsters, whether they’re white boys or the bright young black Caribbean kids who often have their talents denied because they were sent to a sink school.  Social justice isn’t being served by the current education policy of any major party.

It was different for me, of course, a working-class kid from a ‘workless’ household who managed to get into the local grammar school and make it to university in the 1990s. In Ulster young people have the highest rates of university attendance in the UK.  What’s more, almost 100% of students at Queen’s University Belfast are from state schools.  Yes, 100% from state schools, mostly grammar schools (which are under attack – Labour perhaps piloting its plan to destroy English grammars).  And a very large propotion of these students are from working-class families.

New Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve helped clarify the Tory position after the Willetts’ despicable comments.  I would hope that Mr Gove starts to make the case for new grammar schools – and not just in Buckinghamshire.

19 June, 2008 Posted by | politics | , , | Leave a comment

Tax cuts are essential for combating social breakdown

Fraser Nelson, writing in the most recent issue of The Spectator, observed that the Tories are seeking to focus on social policy, rather than the economy. The thinking behind this is that Labour’s opinion poll ratings are already sliding as its record for economic competence has been lost.

However, it would utterly foolish of an incoming Government not to tackle the economic problems that underlie much of the country’s social breakdown.

Tax cuts for lower-income workers, and abandoning the absurd commitment to sticking to Labour’s spending plans, are advocated by Tim Montgomerie in an excellent article in today’s Telegraph. Tim demonstrates again why he should be an MP, if not in 2010 then at least in 2014/15, and a future Cabinet Minister. His proposals should become Conservative policy.

Many public sector low-income workers (e.g. £13k a year), as trade unionist Mark Serowtka rightly pointed out last night on Newsnight, are suffering from rising prices and the impact of Bank of England interest rate policy on their mortgages, and are understandably demanding wage increases – possibly indicating a number of strikes. 

The danger is that high-tax statists could dictate the policy and preclude tax cuts in favour of increased public spending (and, therefore, by implication lower economic growth, real income and living standards), leading to a failure to get out of the economic morass that Brownian policy has created). There’s no point Osborne (or whoever the next Conservative Shadow Chancellor is) becoming another Alistair Darling.

For some of the more stupid Tories, ruling out tax cuts is similar to Blair’s Clause 4 moment on public ownership. However, the key difference is that Labour was wrong supporting public ownership and renationalisation; tax cuts are morally right.

Tax cuts would not only ease the burden on low-income workers, but it would incentivise British people (whatever their ethnic group) who are currently living on benefits to start working.

Creating a new culture of work in areas of ‘worklessness’ or high unemployment can only help to reverse social breakdown. Economic policy, and taxation policy in particular, are inextricably linked with social policy.

Tax cuts could be the incentivising ‘carrot’, that would be more effective than a ‘stick’ approach to forcing people into work.

19 June, 2008 Posted by | betrayal, economy, Gordon Brown, Labour Party, politics, social breakdown, taxation | , , | 1 Comment

Let’s not forget it was Davis who started the Tory recovery: time for a promotion

I was looking back over some old Wilted Rose blog posts to clarify my thinking a little bit and the penny dropped.

One thing that people just don’t remember about the events of last summer – the Brown bounce, the credit crunch, the social breakdown crisis – was that it was David Davis who started the Tory recovery in the opinion polls.

Davis brilliantly captured the public mood on the social breakdown and gun/knife crime issue, while Jacqui Smith and Gordon Brown hid away from the public glare. Davis has now captured the public mood on our freedom and liberty, although the press and media (and some prominent Tories) don’t realise it yet.

Brown came in as Prime Minister and it made me and many others despair. I noted that, “the Conservatives on 33% – David Cameron who alongside David Davis stood tall against crime and social breakdown at the weekend.”

So, although the credit crisis was also starting off, social breakdown and gun crime – so tragically highlighted by the brutal murder of an 11-year-old boy in Liverpool – with feral youths running wild on our streets. The social breakdown crisis was dealt with brilliantly by David Davis, so much so that the Conservatives starting seeing an improvement, particularly winning the ‘key demographic, the over 65s, as the Brown Bounce deflated.

And the polls climbed upwards, and all along David Davis has been a superb Shadow Home Secretary which has given the Tories consistently high ratings on law and order.

Dominic Grieve may be well entrenched in his new post as Shadow Home Secretary. But actually, once the by-election is over and Davis returns with a huge majority and vindication of his much-criticised move, Cameron should bring him back into the Shadow Cabinet.

And what’s more: he should promote this enormous talent. In line with a radical shift towards a lower-tax policy and an abandonment of the crazy ‘commitment’ to match Labour’s spending plans, Cameron should appoint Davis as the Shadow Chancellor.

14 June, 2008 Posted by | crime, economy, politics, social breakdown, taxation | | 4 Comments

Labour has allowed violence to spiral out of control

Sainsbury’s in Merton, nowhere more quiet and respectable, you would think?  Not so. 

No one speaks to anyone else in there … not a sign of friendliness or camaraderie … just seething resentment and anger.

Which bubbled up yesterday into a murder of someone in a queue.  An accusation of queue jumping.  A woman allegedly phoned her “partner”, no doubt has who sired her ba****ds who will we suspect by now have been taken “into care”, and he allegedly knocked the victim to the ground, who apparently wasn’t even the guy blamed for queue jumping.

Mindless violence.  An alleged perpetrator so thick that he could not even attack the ‘real’ queue jumper (if there was such an incident).

This incident crystallises and encapsulates how violent our society has become.  People are scared of these ‘alleged’ thugs and other brainless, semi-educated, benefit-claiming, knife-wielding hoodlums.  Labour has allowed violence to spiral out of control, so such an incident isn’t really surprising – just part of every day life. Is it any wonder millions of Britons have voted with their feet and left this country? 

13 June, 2008 Posted by | crime, Gordon Brown, Labour Party, politics, shame, social breakdown | | Leave a comment

Why I am fuming

I’m from Northern Ireland and have recently returned. I’ve also been a Conservative activist in England.  I’ve pushed  a lot of leaflets and knocked on many doors, and even spent an enjoyable few days in Crewe recently. 

I was annoyed, therefore, to read Iain Dale:

Peter Robinson’s leadership of the DUP has certainly got off to an inauspicious start. The phrase ‘no surrender’ is one which can never be applied to them again. Robinson cravely surrendered to a Gordon Brown bribe. We don’t know what they asked for and we don’t know what they got. But it must have been big.

Gordon Brown may be pleased to have won the vote on 42 days, but he couldn’t have done it without the DUP. The duplicitous b******s kept reassuring the Conservatives they wouldn’t cave in, but they were not to be trusted in the end.

There are many people who will view this result as a weakening of Brown’s personal position rather than a strengthening of it. Whether that is true or not, we are about to find out.

Dan Hannan is none too impressed by the way the DUP have sold their votes.

The DUP didn’t surrender to Sinn Fein and they did not surrender to Brown.  The BBC reports that: ‘DUP MP William McCrea tells Sky News says “hand on heart” that his party voted “on principle” and in the national interest.’  Reverend McCrea (for he is a Free Presbyterian Minister) is unlike many other politicians – he does not lie and he is, as always, being totally honest in what he says. 

And from Dan Hannan MEP we have:

So, the Government wins by nine votes because nine DUP MPs vote for them. We can now be interned for 42 days without being accused of anything. In return, the Unionists have won £200 million for their over-subsidised quango province, in which all the politicians are in power all the time.

There has always been a grasping side to Ulster politicians (as against Ulster people, of both traditions, who are perhaps the most generous and hospitable in the world). Do you know what the opening words of the Covenant were? Go on, have a guess. Being true and loyal subjects of the Crown? Wishing to uphold religious liberty? Nope. The very first line was “BEING CONVINCED in our consciences that Home Rule would be disastrous to the material well-being of Ulster…”

Now, as then it’s all about the moolah. The liberty which ought to be the birthright of every Briton, including every Ulsterman, is bartered for subsidies. Habeas corpus is abandoned for water rates — and perhaps, who knows, the odd knighthood. And don’t give me the “if you’ve nothing to hide you’ve nothing to fear” routine. That’s simply untrue. Barely a day passes without a report of an innocent citizen whose life has been ruined by the bungling of some state agency.

How sad to see Ulster Unionism which, at its best, is as noble, high-minded and patriotic tradition as you’ll find anywhere in the country, reduced by its leaders to this squalid tussling over cash.

To have my country called an “over-subsidised quango province” by a Member of the European Parliament is pretty galling. I expect more of this talk from various other bloggers who, on reflection, will regret their hasty blogging.  But if you’re going to insult the DUP MPs, don’t insult the most loyal subjects of the Queen while you’re at it. 

However, I was heartened to read Matt Sinclair’s post:

Now it’s the DUP who are getting it. I think we should be more careful. If they have decided this on the basis of a bribe then that is a bit shoddy. The dead hand of the state is already weighing more than heavily enough in Northern Ireland. A little more subsidy isn’t worth deciding such an important issue over. However, the £200 million is currently nothing more than rumour and coincidence. Fiscal decisions relevant to Northern Ireland are made all the time and siding with the Government now would be a questionable strategy for a rent-seeker. It is hardly necessary to contruct a conspiracy theory to explain why they voted for this measure. They’ve been on the front lines in an earlier War on Terror, at huge personal risk, for a very long time.

If those insulting them and putting their support for 42 days detention without trial down to venality are wrong they risk p***ing off some good members of the conservative coalition to little end.

I’ve calmed down since then and have changed the title of this post.  But I’m still angry with some of the things that have been said.

11 June, 2008 Posted by | politics | , | 6 Comments

Pensioner poverty – a national scandal

In 1997 Labour said it would eradicate child poverty. It set some targets and has failed to make significant progress on this matter.

But what is more galling, in this New Labour world, is the way that older people are treated, neglected and ignored by the Government.  At least children have rights to education, and other services … what rights to older people have in this country? (unless they have been prudent – yes, that former Brownian word – enough to save for ‘a rainy day’).

As Help the Aged remind us, ageism and age discrimination is still prevalent in this country – for example, on the NHS, if you are “too old”, you can be refused treatment, and granted a death sentence (even though Capital Punishment was abolished); that is, if they don’t do you in with morphine first.  Social care is being cut back by many councils as a result of the Brownian mess that is the public finances. The Help the Aged video is sadly true:

But what is a national scandal is the increase in pensioner poverty, a direct result of this Government’s policies.  Barbara Willis-Brown, writing in the Stirrer, highlights how:

Here in Birmingham, we have too many pensioners living in isolation; struggling to survive on a limited income, with prices rocketing around them.

Their cars have gone, so transport and mobility are key issues; many live in fear, locking themselves away as soon as daylight fades; they cannot afford to socialise (cost, transports, perception, fear); rising costs of social care & diminishing services add pressures to the already hard-pressed.

At a time in life when they need the most help, they find there is precious little available.

Traditionally, there has long been a history of voluntary sector community support, organising trips, outings, hospital visits, befrienders etc.

Yet, due to withdrawal of funding, (Olympics 2012 springs to mind) local support groups have been hammered, as projects simply close down. So, the biggest losers continue to be the elderly – who are also the least able to cope.

As a matter of utmost urgency the government must consider the impact of all these rises on the older population.

The choice between eating and heating the home has been highlighted by Channel 4’s Dispatches already and this holocaust on older people was discussed on this blog. The Government’s inaction on the matter of pension poverty is not only immoral, but also politically inept.  Since the highest turnout at General Elections is amongst over 60s, older people will have their revenge on this despicable Government.

11 June, 2008 Posted by | betrayal, Gordon Brown, Labour Party, older people, politics, poverty, shame | | 1 Comment